Vancouver Canucks open homestand without Pettersson, Leivo against Coyotes
Thursday January 10 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Arizona Coyotes - 7 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 45 GP, 20-21-4, 44 pts, fifth in Pacific Division
Arizona Coyotes: 42 GP, 18-21-3, 39 pts, seventh in Pacific Division
Hello, old friends!
Nearly three weeks after they were shut out 1-0 by the Winnipeg Jets in their last game before Christmas on December 22, the Vancouver Canucks return to Rogers Arena to kick off a six-game homestand against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
It's also Star Wars Night, if that's your thing:
Josh Leivo hit the ice ahead of Thursday's morning skate—his first ice time since leaving last Wednesday's game against Ottawa with a back issue.
No sign of Pettersson on Thursday. Hopefully we'll see him back on the ice soon.
If you missed it, here's how the lines rolled out at practice on Wednesday:
After all the spadework he has done for the last two-plus months, Bo Horvat is back to being Vancouver's top offensive centre for the time being.
Recently recalled Adam Gaudette will also get a chance to try to deliver some scoring.
Gaudette has six points in 31 NHL games this season, but has seven points in seven AHL games, including a three-point game last weekend against Cleveland. That may help give some offensive confidence to the 2018 Hobey Baker Award winner, who led the entire NCAA in scoring last season with 30-30-60 in 38 games.
Gaudette will see some time on PP2 against the Coyotes:
The Vancouver power play has been pretty chilly ever since the Canucks went 3-for-5 against the Edmonton Oilers on December 16. Since then, they're 4-for-33, or 12.1 percent, through nine games — averaging nearly four opportunities per game but with goals only from Horvat against St. Louis, Brock Boeser in Calgary and Pettersson and Sven Baertshi in Ottawa.
As for the Coyotes, if they didn't have bad luck they'd have no luck at all.
Recently acquired Nick Schmaltz, who had 21 goals and 52 points with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, is the latest Arizona player to suffer a season-ending knee injury. After putting up just 11 points in his first 23 games with the Blackhawks this year before he was traded, Schmaltz had a solid 14 points in 17 games with the Coyotes before he went down.
Schmaltz joins goaltender Antti Raanta on long-term injured reserve. With enough talent to be a proper No. 1 netminder, Raanta has had a tough time staying healthy since joining the Coyotes. He had a .930 save percentage in 47 games last season but managed played just 12 games this year before being shelved with a lower-body injury that may keep him out for the rest of the year.
And it doesn't end there. After signing a six-year contract extension in August that will pay him an average of $4.45 million per season, forward Christian Dvorak is expected to miss this entire season after tearing a pectoral muscle during training camp. Steady defenseman Jason Demers, who was acquired at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, also suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-November and forward Michael Grabner, who was signed this summer as a UFA to add offense, has been out since early December after suffering a gruesome eye injury.
Shorter-term, defenseman Kevin Connaugton and forward Josh Archibald are missing from the lineup.
The Coyotes are now well ahead of the Canucks in man-games lost so far this season, according to the most recent chart from last week.
Despite all the roster challenges, the Coyotes played .500 hockey during their recent five-game homestand, which wrapped up with a 5-0 shutout win over the New York Rangers. Darcy Kuemper got the shutout in that game and is projected to start tonight against Jacob Markstrom. Kuemper made 27 saves for the win against Anders Nilsson in Vancouver's only other game against the Coyotes so far this year—a 4-1 loss on the tail end of a back-to-back on October 25.
Even with all their injuries, the Coyotes have remained stingy defensively. They're tied with Toronto, Minnesota and Buffalo with the sixth-best goals-against average in the league, giving up 2.79 goals per game. It's the offensive side of the game that's giving them trouble—ranked ahead of only Anaheim and L.A. with an average of 2.52 goals scored per game.
Clayton Keller leads the team with 30 points and the only players with more than 10 goals are one-time whiskey-drinking Canuck Brad Richardson (11) and Christian Fischer (10). With Elias Pettersson absent, the Canucks will have one player over 30 points in the lineup tonight—Bo Horvat (36) and three scorers in double digits: Horvat (17), Boeser (14) and Jake Virtanen (11).
I'll wrap up by reminding you that today is the last day to vote for Brock Boeser as the Last Man In for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.
You want to see him defend his shooting accuracy title, right? And you want him in San Jose to show Pettersson the All-Star ropes? You can vote up to 10 times today.
Enjoy the game!