For the folks in TV land in the east, who want to see their Maple Leafs at 7 pm, the Vancouver Canucks have to play Saturday’s game at 4 pm pacific. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, both teams are in the same boat and it is the weekend, but it can be an inconvenience for Canucks fans.
Plus, holy moly, what a beautiful day; totally understandable if you’d rather be outside than in a rink or inside watching the telly.
OK, yeah, I’m kidding, that’s sacrilege. This game should be a beauty. Or as Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers just alluded in his pregame media avail, “there’s always a bit more excitement for these (Hockey Night in Canada) games.”
— Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau stated in his pregame comments that defenceman Travis Hamonic will give his lower body injury a test in the pregame skate and see how it feels. If he’s not able to go, fellow right-shot Noah Juulsen will stay in the Vancouver line-up.
Hamonic hasn’t played since December 8th at home against the Boston Bruins when he suffered his injury on a hit by Brad Marchand. Getting dropped in against the offensive powerhouse that is the Maple Leafs might be asking a bit much, but then again he’s gotta re-start somewhere. It could be a re-baptism by fire for the 31-year-old, 12th-year NHLer.
— Veteran forward Jason Dickinson, a healthy scratch for the New York Islanders game on Wednesday night, will be back in the Canucks line-up Saturday. Justin Dowling, the man who replaced him up front, has already been sent to the AHL Abbotsford Canucks via waivers.
— Toronto features the NHL’s top power play, clicking 29.6% of the time, taking on the Vancouver Canucks penalty kill that remains in the basement of the NHL stat’ standings, 32nd overall with a 71% kill rate. Needless to say, this could prove pivotal in the match and the Canucks would be best served simply staying out of the penalty box rather than putting pressure on their best penalty killer, goalie Thatcher Demko.
— Elias Pettersson has found his game and re-ignited his confidence. He has three points in the last two games and ten points, including seven goals, over his last eleven.
Even when he hasn’t found the score sheet, which happened for three consecutive games on the Canucks recent road trip, he’s been playing both ends, effective on the backcheck. He’s also been creating chances. Coach Boudreau’s ongoing message for ‘Petey’: Keep shooting the puck!’
— Myers on the slow starts, weak first periods, that have plagued the Canucks the last two games:
“Certainly as a team we have to start better. We got away with it against Arizona, to come away zero-zero after that first period and we started to find our legs better, and then the next game against the Islanders we didn’t get away with it. So something we need to correct and tonight, team coming in, very good team, a very good offensive team, we have to make sure we’re ready to go right from the opening face-off.”
“If not the best line in the league, they’re right up there. (Michael Bunting, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner) They’ve always been the focal point of the conversation when you play the Leafs. Matthews has 31 goals in 41 games or something, that’s a tremendous pace and he’s always somebody you have to watch. We’re not going in there blind thinking we’re not playing against one of the best offensive teams in hockey, let alone one of the best offensive lines.”