Podkolzin returns as Canucks host Vegas amidst Horvat, Myers trade rumours
Monday November 21 - Vegas Golden Knights at Vancouver Canucks - 7:30 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific
The Vancouver Canucks will have a tough challenge ahead, as they look to win three straight games for the first time this season.
The Vegas Golden Knights are making their first visit of the year to Rogers Arena, with a later-than-usual start time of 7:30 p.m. PT on Monday.
With a 14-4-1 record this season, Vegas sits comfortably atop the Western Conference standings and third overall in the league, behind only Boston and New Jersey — and you probably remember what happened when Vancouver played Boston and New Jersey earlier this season. It wasn't pretty.
The Golden Knights are back to the high-flying style of their early years. They're averaging 3.58 goals per game for the fifth-best mark in the league, but their power play is middle-of-the-pack, at 21.1%. And Jack Eichel is delivering as advertised, leading the team with 22 points, while Chandler Stevenson also continues to produce in a second-line centre role, with 18 points. Original Knights Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault are also off to good starts.
After injuries derailed Vegas's playoff hopes last season, the biggest question mark around the team heading into this year was their netminding situation, with Marc-Andre Fleury gone and Robin Lehner on injured reserve. But undrafted 25-year-old Logan Thompson offers a glimmer of hope to Canadian USports hockey players as he continues to excel in his official rookie season with Vegas. He has basically stolen the stat line that we were hoping Thatcher Demko would amass, with a 9-3-0 record, .925 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average.
Keep an eye on him as a potential Calder Trophy finalist, especially with so many rookie skaters bunched together in the scoring race. If Thompson keeps this up, he could be on the inside track for the award.
No official word yet on a starter for Monday night on either team, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Thompson vs. Demko.
This is the first meeting between Vegas and Vancouver this season, but they won't have to wait seven months for another rematch. The Canucks are heading out on a three-game road trip this week which will see them touch down in Denver to play the Avalanche on Wednesday, then visit Vegas on Saturday before finishing up Sunday in San Jose, on yet another back-to-back.
They've got two days off before facing the Golden Knights. Would they dare to risk a rookie dinner and potential Vegas Flu scenario on Thursday?
As for the Golden Knights, they're finishing off a quick two-game road trip that saw them drop a 4-3 overtime decision in Edmonton on Saturday night. After Monday's game, they'll head home for a quick 3-in-4. They'll be on the second half of a back-to-back set when they host Vancouver on Saturday after seeing Ottawa on Wednesday and Seattle on Friday.
And after home overtime wins against the Rangers on Thursday and the Kings on Saturday, the Kraken are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. That's the same record as Vegas, and just one point out of second place in the Pacific — with three games in hand on Vegas.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've actually been in Seattle for the past couple of days. I took in the Kraken/Kings game on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena, where the game experience absolutely lived up to everything I've been hearing for the past year-and-a-bit. Then, I returned on Sunday for the Rivalry Series game between the Canadian and U.S. women's national teams, where Hilary Knight and Team USA put on a show for the record-setting crowd of more than 14,000 fans.
It's been a great weekend. And after being exposed to Seattle television and sports broadcasts for my whole life while growing up in Vancouver, I'll stand by my assertion that it's very cool to see Seattle embracing its new role as a hockey town.
The music, the tech, the coffee — that's all still here as well. I was amused by the announcement that we can listen to the in-house DJ's playlist for pre-game warmups simply by asking Alexa to play it, but it makes complete sense — Amazon is an important partner for both the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.
And now that he's back on the west coast, North Vancouver's Martin Jones has found his mojo again. He was named the NHL's third star of the week on Monday.
Anyway...as for the Canucks...
Here's how they rolled their lines at Monday's morning skate:
Looks like Vasily Podkolzin will draw back into the lineup after missing last week's games due to facial injuries from his fight with A.J. Greer in Boston.
Yes, Thatcher Demko was the first goalie off the ice for the Canucks. And it's also noteworthy that Travis Dermott has finally been back at practice for the last couple of days. He's still wearing a non-contact jersey, but this is the first time he has been seen since he suffered a concussion during training camp, almost two months ago.
After a pair of wins, the talk of Bruce Boudreau's imminent firing has died down a bit. I have seen rumours that the club has potentially spoken with former Coyotes bench boss and current TNT analyst Rick Tocchet, but I wouldn't read too much into that at the moment.
I did enjoy Patrick Johnston's piece in The Province this weekend about how Boudreau is dealing with his current situation head on, as a man on an island.
Now, the national media has moved on to trading impending free agent Bo Horvat — and while Horvat doesn't have any trade protection, the return the Canucks could get for him if he is dealt would absolutely depend on whether or not he's willing to sign a contract extension.
This summer's Tkachuk-for-Huberdeau deal does make it seem more possible that a star on a Canadian team could get moved for contract-related reasons — although Tkachuk triggered that move because he wanted to play in the U.S. Horvat, as far as I know, has no issue playing in Canada — although he has still never strayed from the party line that he's a Canuck and loves being right where he is.
With so much turmoil currently around the organization, I'd be surprised if a contract extension for Horvat in Vancouver materializes anytime soon, so I imagine this chatter is only going to heat up as we get closer to the March 3 trade deadline. Everyone needs to pace themselves!
Elliotte Friedman also dropped the nugget on '32 Thoughts' on Saturday that the Canucks and Senators may have had a conversation involving Tyler Myers and Nikita Zaitsev. Like Myers, Zaitsev is in his 30s and has two years remaining on his current contract, although at a slightly lower $4.5 million cap hit compared to Myers' $6 million. It wouldn't surprise me if Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin would like to get Myers' deal off their books, but I don't think a Zaitsev deal provides enough cap relief to make it worthwhile, especially given that it would be a defensive downgrade.
Zaitsev cleared waivers last week, and was assigned to AHL Belleville on Friday.
I'll leave it there for now, as I need to start my journey home from Seattle.
Enjoy the game!