The Vancouver Canucks welcome back a 22-year-old star to their D-corps Thursday evening as Quinn Hughes returns to the Vancouver line-up in San Jose against the Sharks. Hughes just completed his 10-day American Covid quarantine.
“I felt good, I didn’t have any symptoms,” Hughes told the media Thursday morning. “Good to be back, glad to put this behind me. I was one of the last guys to get it, I knew I was going to get it at some point, yeah it’s nice to be back.”
While not losing sight of the importance of this Pacific Division ‘regular season playoff game’ against the team closest to the Canucks in the standings, big picture it appears Hughes will be able to continue playing with the team uninterrupted moving forward, although his coach wasn’t entirely sure.
“I’ve been told he’s on the plane coming home,” Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “as to whether he can play on Saturday, I don’t know yet.”
Logic would dictate, not that logic has necessarily applied to everything the NHL and the government bureaucracies have done with Covid, that having completed his quarantine in the US, and should he test negative when crossing the border, starting a new protocol in Canada would be ridiculous. We’ll get back to you on that once that logic is confirmed.
Meanwhile, instead of scrambling to plug in D-men, a regular job requirement for Boudreau so far in 2022, the Canucks actually have choices. Brad Hunt or Kyle Burroughs will be bumped from the line-up with the return of Hughes. With Tucker Poolman expected to return from illness shortly, it will mean that second defenceman will join the other in the press box. Vancouver is that close to having eight healthy D-men.
Although right-shot defenceman Travis Hamonic has returned to the traveling Vancouver Canucks roster, it appears Boudreau will stick with a Hughes-Luke Schenn pairing for now.
“It’s no secret that he’s obviously our best defenceman,” Schenn said Thursday. “Does so much for us just in terms of moving the puck, jumping up in the play, creating offence in the offensive zone. Great on the power play.”
The Vancouver Canucks have quarterback options there as well. With Hughes missing, veteran Oliver Ekman-Larsson filled in nicely on the man-advantage, working it to a 30% effectiveness rate. The last week provided OEL an opportunity to prove that he still has those capabilities, not sure why he wouldn’t, and can step in with the top unit if things need to be rearranged.
With his skating ability Hughes brings a lot to the table defensively as well this season. Improving his work at that end of the ice was a personal goal. It’s working and it’s dynamic.
“I know it’s starting to get talked about a bit more and more; everyone’s recognized him in the past for his offensive abilities,” Schenn added, “but (he’s) competing really hard in the D-zone, strong in front of the net and winning a lot of the 50-50 pucks in the corner, so he’s getting better here as we go.”
Hughes says he’ll be ready to roll with short shifts in the first period and then go from there.
“Yeah, I was in Michigan and I skated with my dad, it was good. He runs a mean skate so yeah, I feel good.”