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No Hughes, No Pettersson at Canucks Practice, Team Reacts

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Vancouver Canucks practice
The Vancouver Canucks at practice on Monday at Rogers Arena.

Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau believes forward Elias Pettersson will be available Tuesday evening at Rogers Arena against the Arizona Coyotes after he went home feeling ill and skipped practice Monday. The coach said it’s not Covid.

“Hopefully he’ll be ready to have a pre-game skate with us tomorrow and play the game tomorrow night,” Boudreau said.

Bottom-six forward Matthew Highmore did test positive for Covid and was awaiting a follow-up test before being forced to enter protocols. No announcement as of Monday evening.

Which leaves us the aftermath of the news already reported on Monday morning. Quinn Hughes will miss a number of games after entering NHL Covid protocol. It’s believed Hughes was in the United States preparing to return to Canada when he tested positive, which will extend his time out of the line-up.

The cross-border travel rules have been a thorn in the side of the Vancouver Canucks and other Canadian teams, and even though the NHL has relaxed the testing requirements, differing international bureaucracies have complicated matters for players who test positive when south of the border.

Essentially instead of having to wait only five days had he been domestic, Hughes will likely have to wait in quarantine for ten. That means he could join the team in San Jose for the Vancouver Canucks game against the Sharks on February 17th and then return to BC with the club.

“Well, if you look at the number of goals that he creates from the back-end for a team that is somewhat offensively challenged, and he’s our best creator from the back-end, so that’s going to be our challenge,” Boudreau said of missing Hughes. “He’s a great player. We’ve gone through having (Bo) Horvat and (JT) Miller out at the same time, we’ve gone through having (Thatcher) Demko out and (Jaro) Halak at the same time, so we’re gonna go through this. It’s a clich√© now, but it’s the ‘next man up’ thing.”

It doesn’t matter where Hughes got it our how he got it, he tested positive. It means Oliver Ekman-Larsson will fill a role he’s filled previously in his career; he becomes the top defenceman.

“Obviously someone has to step up and hopefully that’s me,” OEL said Monday afternoon.

The 30-year-old’s role has changed with Hughes ahead of him on the left side and on the first power play unit, but Ekman-Larsson is no stranger to heavy minutes, a top role, and to making dramatically effective breakout passes. OEL had a 55 point season for the Arizona Coyotes six years ago and a total of four other 40+ point seasons. Last year he was again on a 40-point pace had it been a full regular season.

“I feel like I’ve been playing some good hockey over the (this) season,” OEL said, “I mean I’ve been creating a lot of chances and shooting the puck a lot so, I mean would I like to have more points, yeah, of course, it’s a league that everyone keeps looking at the points and how many points you put up, but you kind of forget about the other stuff people do on the ice too.”

And people shouldn’t forget the added motivation of playing his former franchise for the very first time. The same for Connor Garland, the two acquired together from Arizona this past summer. There will be no shortage of energy on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, defenceman Tucker Poolman remains out, not feeling well. His last action came against the Winnipeg Jets on January 27th at Rogers Arena when Poolman left the game ill after one period. Boudreau said the prolonged absence is not Covid related.

Fellow right-shot defenceman and Vancouver native Kyle Burroughs returned from injury and skated with the club Monday morning.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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