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Canucks Pregame Vs. Hurricanes & Aho, Gabby Speaks

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Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau after the optional morning skate on Sunday.

For two days after Vancouver Canucks practice sessions, the name Sebastian Aho arose in conversation with Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. Saturday in the context of using star players on the penalty kill, Carolina does it with Aho, and Sunday for just the pure appreciation of the 24-year-old centre’s skill set.

“I thought the TV was on fast-forward actually,” said Boudreau in reference to watching Aho and the Canes versus the Oilers. “He’s quick, he’s got a nose for the puck, he’s a great puck handler, he’s playing with two pretty good wingers, I mean, he’s a special player, there’s a reason he’s always leading their team.” Aho leads the Canes with 32 points, 11 ahead of the next best scorer Andrei Svechnikov.

Swiss-born Nino Niederreiter often plays on Aho’s left wing, while fellow Finn Teuvo Teravainen plays on his right. The two seem somewhat interchangeable and all four of the aforementioned players are left-handed.

Should Aho tally two points or more Sunday night he would tie a Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise record for most consecutive multi-point games at six presently held by Mike Rogers from 1979-’80 and repeated by Kevin Dineen in 1988-’89. Aho extended his streak to five last night in Edmonton with two goals and an assist, factoring in on all of the Canes’ scoring in a 3-1 win.

“It’s all pressure,” Boudreau said about the Hurricanes. “They pressure everything, they make you make a good play all the time and then they shoot from everywhere. That’s why, I have no idea, I haven’t read it, but they’re usually number-one or number-two in the league in shots on goal. They’re all about pressure and speed and great goaltending, so that’s why they’re good.”

Through almost a third of the season, Carolina presently averages 33.1 shots-on-goal per game while giving up just 27.

The Canucks under Boudreau will generally see game-day morning skates as optional. For the fifteen players participating Sunday morning, the efforts mostly involved small group and individual skill drills.

“My philosophy is, whatever makes you better at 7 o’clock,” Bourdreau said. “If you wanna don’t practice, I don’t care if you’re 18 or 48. If you feel better when you have your pregame skate, then you go out and skate. To me, when you’re playing every second day until Christmas, it’s not that important, what’s important is what they do tonight.”

“Gabby” hinted at a potential line-up change but kept it hush-hush. He’s already without injured defencemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Travis Hamonic. Third-pair defenders Kyle Burroughs and Brad Hunt handled themselves pretty well Friday night, both on the ice for a goal-for and a goal-against. They didn’t factor in the scoring statistically but they both had two shot attempts and doled out a collective total of 4 hits. Expect any change to come up front.

Thatcher Demko gets his 24th start of the season in net.

Vancouver still possesses the NHL’s worst penalty kill at 65.9%, having given up one power play goal to both Boston and Winnipeg so far under Boudreau. The Hurricanes power play ranks 11th in the league at just over 20%. The Canucks power play produces at 18.8%.

The Canucks have reeled off three consecutive wins under Boudreau, 4-0 over the LA KIngs on Monday, 2-1 in a shootout over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, and 4-3 in a shoot-out over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

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