Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser, back from a disjointed, cross-border, symptom-free, Covid quarantine and protocol experience he referred to as a “crappy scenario”, skated with his teammates for the first time in a couple of weeks as the Canucks prepare for a five-game NHL road gauntlet. It begins with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night and then across the Sunshine State for the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
“We’re facing some of the best teams in hockey, especially these first two games, so it’s a big test for our group, but it’s a test we need, I think. We’ve been playing such good hockey, you want to play the best and beat the best,” Boeser said.
Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau expects to have Boeser, Jason Dickinson, and Elias Pettersson all back in the line-up Tuesday, all coming off various degrees and lengths of protocol.
“You’re always managing minutes depending on the score and the type of game that’s going, but we’ll be cognizant of the fact that these guys haven’t been on the ice for awhile,” Boudreau pointed out. “The lines have been switched around a bit, but they’ll all adjust, they always have, so I assume they will again.”
Here are those lines from practice on Monday:
Expect to see Thatcher Demko in net for both the Panthers and Lightning matches and then some form of split between him and Jaroslav Halak for the back-to-backs against the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals on the weekend.
The road trip concludes with a visit to the Central Division leading Nashville Predators next Tuesday. It’s five games in eight nights against some of very best of the NHL’s best.
Again, it begins with Florida, a team tied with Tampa Bay for the most points in the NHL with 51.
“They can throw four lines at you that can all score,” Boudreau said about the Panthers. “They have superstars, and the line of (Aleksander) Barkov, (Jonathan) Huberdeau, and (Anthony) Duclair, they can all fly, and their defence is jumping up on the play, if you look at some of the points some of the defencemen have had, it’s crazy.”
The Canucks will counter-attack with a roster that includes Boeser, without game action since December 16th, Dickinson, unavailable since the LA Kings games on December 30th, and Pettersson, out since New Years Day. That was also the last game for the Canucks as a team, but “Petey” has also missed the past week of practice.
“Of course the conditioning goes away quick if you’re not doing anything,” Pettersson said after practice Monday, “but I tried to keep that up while I was staying at home. Had a good practice today, did a little extra skate after the practice so hopefully the legs will feel good tomorrow. They will feel good tomorrow.”
Pettersson remained symptom-free during his Covid protocol experience, not unlike his teammates. More than anything else, the positive tests for healthy, vaccinated individuals proved to be an inconvenience. Confusing and frustrating would describe the cross-border experience.
“It wasn’t great,” Boeser said. “Obviously quarantined for five days in the States and then came back, and I think there was a lot of miscommunication on what was agreed on and what actually happened, and we quarantined another five days, and they still wanted us guys to quarantine more. I know the other guys are still stuck until Wednesday so I feel really bad for them.”
As an American citizen, Boeser was able to scoot south. The ‘other guys’ being Canadians Justin Dowling and Phil Di Giuseppe. The club will decide and announce who will re-join the team when the time comes.