Flying off to play hockey. What a concept. It seems like forever, it’s actually been 12 days, since the Vancouver Canucks played an NHL hockey game. With five consecutive games postponed due to Covid, the Canucks held a handful of practices around the holiday break under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, considered a blessing in disguise, giving them a chance to bone up on his systems and preferences.
“We’re going out there to win,” stated Canucks forward JT Miller following practice Tuesday morning. “We’ve gotta get our minds back into it, we’ve had a lot of time off here, so we’re excited to get back into it for sure.”
They start the road trip against the Anaheim Ducks, a team that has already beaten the Canucks twice this season, 3-2 in overtime at Rogers Arena on November 9th and then 5-1 five nights later in Anaheim.
“We’re not worried about them, they’re a good hockey team, we have a lot of respect for them,” Miller said. “We’re excited to play, we’ve all had two weeks off, we’re ready to go. We’re worried about ourselves, if we take care of our game, that’s going to give us the best chance to win.”
Very much the ‘coach-speak’. But then again, without a game under their belts since December 16th, a 5-2 victory on the road against the San Jose Sharks, what’s there to talk about? Unfortunately … Covid.
Outstanding rookie centre Trevor Zegras is the latest Anaheim player to join the Covid protocol list on Tuesday morning. Max Comtois and Sam Steel were already on it. The Ducks did name a five-man taxi squad on Monday, so one would hope the missing personnel would be covered. However, if it becomes a mini-Anaheim epidemic, we’ll likely see another postponement.
For the Canucks, Covid testers were setting up at Rogers Arena prior to 8 am Tuesday morning. Should everything come back negative, the club will have a full compliment of players to choose from and there should be no delays to their southbound flight. Even forward Alex Chiasson, who missed three practices while awaiting a negative Covid test, was back on the ice and set up in front of the net.
The team worked extensively on the power play versus the penalty kill during an abbreviated ‘formal’ practice Tuesday. The PK seemed to dominate a PP that was somewhat experimental. Like Chiasson, Elias Pettersson actually moved down and tried the net-front position on the man advantage.
“I like to play in front of the net,” Pettersson said. “I think I can (be) pretty good at screening the goalie and I’m pretty good at tipping pucks, so, it’s fun, I’m just trying to be able to get a screen and do my role in front of the net.”
At least a dozen players stayed on the ice for an additional half-hour after practice was over, including Pettersson and fellow-Swede Nils Höglander. “Petey” followed up for us on our story about “Hoagie” from last night.
“If I see something that I’ve learned that I can teach him, I’ll talk to him,” Pettesson said. “But I mean, he’s a great hockey player who does a lot of good things, but if I see something that he can benefit from, then I’ll talk to him, and vice versa. We’re both honest guys and we can take feedback, so we’re just trying to help each other.”
Boudreau arrived December 6th and Vancouver is 6-and-0 since he took over. That winning streak lingers. If Omicron allows, the Canucks plan to put it on the line tomorrow night at Honda Center.