Elias Pettersson gets Hockey Night in Canada spotlight, won't play vs Leafs
Saturday January 5 - Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs - 4 p.m. - CBC, Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 360
Vancouver Canucks: 44 GP, 20-20-4, 44 pts, fifth in Pacific Division
Toronto Maple Leafs: 40 GP, 26-12-2, 54 pts, second in Atlantic Division
The Vancouver Canucks will be without injured Elias Pettersson when they wrap up their six-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday, but the Canucks' young star will still be enjoying a healthy dose of the spotlight.
Despite his injury on Thursday night in Montreal, he visited the Hockey Night in Canada studio on Friday to tape a sit-down interview with Nick Kypreos that will run during Hockey Central Saturday at 3:30 p.m. PT:
The big broadcast is all in on playoff possibilities for the Canucks, who go into Saturday's game one point out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference but have still played more games than almost every other team in the league. On a points-per-game basis, Vancouver's .500 record ranks them 23rd overall, behind Edmonton and just ahead of New Jersey.
I remain in the "probably not" camp — which is further evidenced by the fact that my subconscious seems to still be convinced that Jack Hughes will be Canucks' property in six months' time. Barring an absolute blockbuster trade, the Canucks will need to miss the playoffs and finally deliver that elusive draft lottery win in order to make that happen.
I'm the first to admit that my 'feelings' and 'wishful thinking' are certainly not accurate predictors of future events, but I've been caught up in the idea of Quinn and Jack playing together ever since I saw them in Kamloops last summer, so I'm still holding out hope.
With Jack's injury, the pair haven't been able to play together nearly as much as we anticipated in this tournament, and I suspect coach Mike Hastings was a bit reluctant to roll them out too much together against the heavy Russian team on Friday. But they did get a little bit of power-play time together. Quinn absolutely lit up when I asked him about it.
My guess is that Jack is still not at 100 percent and would have more to give if he was healthy. As it is, he was still running the U.S. power play from the right half-wall—basically, the "Petey" spot—and picked up the primary assist with an awesome feed to Sasha Chmelevski on what turned out to be the game-winning goal against Russia on Friday.
Coach Hastings leaned a little more on his bigger players against a pretty tough Russian squad, so Quinn saw his ice time drop to 21:08. He had a big defensive play in the second period, rescuing a loose puck in the goal-mouth that had eluded goaltender Cayden Primeau. Canucks prospect Tyler Madden played 15:13. He said he was excited to be included in the starting lineup and that it felt good to hear some cheers from the fans at Rogers Arena when his name was announced.
Quinn also acknowledged the extra sizzle that came with the opportunity to play in front of the fans of the team that drafted him. Though both Team USA and Team Russia were booed when they first took to the ice, Quinn was also cheered when he was announced as a starter. TSN's Mark Masters dubbed the local fans "Quinn-adians" as a result of the shift in their rooting interest.
Though the U.S. team disposed of Finland pretty handily by a score of 4-1 in the teams' New Years Eve preliminary-round meeting, I'm expecting a very competitive gold-medal game. It's the first time that the U.S.and Finland have ever met for gold at the World Junior level, but a lot of these players have been battling against each other at the U18 level for the last couple of years. USA won the 2017 U18 tournament, then Finland took the gold last year.
Finland was clearly not content to rest on its laurels after knocking off Canada. In Friday's second semifinal, they chased Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein by scoring four goals in the first 7:43 of the first period, ultimately cruising to a 6-1 win.
After the game, the Finns were a confident group, too, when asked about their chances against the U.S. It may not be the gold-medal game that Canadian fans were hoping to see, but it should be some great hockey.
USA-Finland goes at 5 p.m. PT on TSN, so if the Pettersson-less Canucks are having trouble getting anything going against the Leafs, you can flip over after the first period. Russia and Switzerland play for bronze at 1 p.m.
Josh Leivo also remains sidelined, so here's how the Canucks' lines shook down at Saturday's morning skate:
Nikolay Goldobin is back in, but Goldy-Sutter-Boeser doesn't have quite the same zip, does it?
As expected, Thatcher Demko has joined the Canucks in Toronto and will back up Jacob Markstrom on Saturday.
Mike McKenna, we barely knew ya, but I'll always remember your time as a Canuck fondly. Pure class.
After McKenna was claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, the organization filled its netminding hole in Utica by signing an ECHL goaltender from the Adirondack Thunder to a PTO contract.
Alex Sakellaropoulos is an undrafted 24-year-old who has put up some decent numbers this year at his level. He was 10-3-1 with a .919 save percentage and 2.46 GAA with Adirondack. The Illionois native has good size at 6'3" and 215 pounds and won an NCAA national title with Union in his freshman year, in 2013-14.
The Comets earned a win in Sakellaropoulos' first game as backup—a 6-2 road win over Cleveland in a Saturday matinee, with Ivan Kulbakov manning the net.
With that, you're up to date for now. Enjoy the games!