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Travis Hamonic recalled, Canucks seek scoring spark as homestand continues

November 1, 2021, 2:26 PM ET [425 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Tuesday November 2 - New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks - 7 p.m.

During their season-opening road trip, the Vancouver Canucks started out by playing some entertaining, high-event hockey.

That's already a distant memory. What was supposed to be a triumphant return to normalcy at Rogers Arena has fallen flat, as the team scored just four goals in total through its losses to Minnesota, Philadelphia and, most recently, to Edmonton on Saturday night.

This latest outing feels especially frustrating, as the club played the Oilers well at 5-on-5 and limited Connor McDavid to just one point for the first time this season. But Edmonton's league-best power play went 2-for-2 while the Canucks didn't get a man advantage until the late stages of the third period. And even the 2-1 final score flattered the home squad, since Brock Boeser's goal came with just seven seconds remaining on the third-period clock.

I covered Saturday's contest for the Canadian Press, so if you'd like to read more about that, check out my game story:

With the loss, the Canucks join the Arizona Coyotes as the only team without a point in its home rink so far this season (and the Islanders, but that's because they haven't played a home game yet). And with their 3-5-1 record, Vancouver is now locked into a three-way tie with Los Angeles and Seattle in the basement of the Pacific Division.

We've now seen why the Oilers are rolling. Meanwhile, the Kings have now won two in a row without injured Drew Doughty, the Sharks battled through to beat the Jets on Saturday despite losing their coach and a handful of players to Covid protocols, the banged-up Golden Knights have won three straight, the Ducks beat Montreal on Sunday, and Jacob Markstrom was just named the NHL's first star of the week after giving up one goal in three games. The Flames just came home from a perfect 5-0-0 Eastern road trip and shut out the Flyers on Saturday night. Their only loss of the year so far was their season-opener against Edmonton, and their plus-14 goal differential ties them with St. Louis for third-best in the league, behind only Carolina (+21) and Florida (+18).

The Canucks are at a not-terrible minus-3, but that's because they've been playing such low-event hockey. These three home losses have all been by one goal, leaving points on the table that will almost certainly be missed once the playoff race begins in earnest.

With four games left in this homestand, there's still time to turn things around. The Canucks host the New York Rangers on Tuesday, followed by Nashville on Friday, then Dallas on Sunday and Anaheim on November 9.

The Rangers are another team that made big changes in the offseason, starting with the arrival of head coach Gerard Gallant. After a 3-1 win in Seattle on Sunday despite being outshot 32-18, the team has moved to a solid 6-2-1 record, good for third place in the tough Metropolitan Division.

Igor Shesterkin is staking a claim as the second coming of Henrik Lundqvist, with a 1.70 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, and the Canucks will probably face him on Tuesday. The back-to-back portion of the Rangers' road trip comes on the weekend, when they'll play Edmonton on Friday and Calgary on Saturday.

The Canucks swept their season series with the Rangers back in 2019-20, with a 5-3 win at Madison Square Garden in October and a 2-1 victory at Rogers Arena in January. Back then, Adam Fox was a raw rookie. Now, he's a 23-year-old Norris Trophy winner who's leading his team with nine points in nine games.

Sunday was a day off for the Canucks. With Halloween on Sunday night, practice is a later-than-usual 11:15 a.m. on Monday, with media updates to follow.

Tucker Poolman and Jason Dickinson both returned to the Vancouver lineup on Saturday against Edmonton, while Matthew Highmore is now on injured reserve. Rathbone also drew back in to Saturday's game after being scratched against the Flyers, while Luke Schenn stayed in the lineup on the third pair over Kyle Burroughs.

Out in the valley, Travis Hamonic made his season debut — and played his first AHL game since the 2012-13 lockout — as the Abbotsford Canucks finished their back-to-back set against the Ontario Reign with a 3-2 overtime loss. Hamonic had a power-play assist in the game, to go along with one shot on goal, but was also on the penalty kill for both of Ontario's first-period power-play goals and T.J. Tynan's 3-on-3 game winner.

On Monday, the Canucks announced that they've recalled Hamonic, while assigning Jack Rathbone to Abbotsford. That's the easiest move, with Rathbone being waiver exempt, although it messes up the lefty-rightie balance on the blue line.

For now, this doesn't necessarily mean that Hamonic will necessarily slot right into the lineup. Or that Rathbone's banishment is necessarily long term.

It is worth mentioning that the OEL/Myers defense pairing has been a bright spot so far. If Hamonic eventually reunites with Hughes and Poolman bumps down to the third pair — with Brad Hunt? — that should make the blue line even better.

That being said, Ekman-Larsson is absent from Monday's practice, creating another major jumble of the defense pairs. Hopefully just a maintenance day — the big Swede has been averaging 24:04 of ice time so far this season, more than three minutes higher than last year, and his 20 hits so far are third on the team behind J.T. Miller (26) and Kyle Burroughs (23).

Then they just have to figure out what to do about the scoring chances. My eye test from Saturday definitely aligns with this data:

To close today, a couple of prospect notes:

Per Mike Raptis' always-helpful weekly tracker at The Province:

• Russia's Dmitry Zlodeyev was traded last week from the Dynamo Moscow to the Spartak Moscow organization. The 19-year-old has been playing in the junior-level VHL this season, so he is now with Khimik Voskresensk. But more importantly, he was named to Russia's roster for the upcoming U20 Four Nations Tournament, which runs from Nov. 12-14. Most of the players in that tournament typically usually also end up on their countries' rosters at the World Junior Championship, so that bodes well for Zlodeyev's chances.

• Defenseman Jacob Truscott is a candidate for Team USA, and is off to a good start at the University of Michigan. Truscott has six points in eight games so far and while we never want to get too excited about plus-minus, Truscott's plus-11 leads his team, ahead of fellow defenders Owen Power (8 points, even), the 2021 first-overall pick from the 2020-21 draft, and Truscott's partner Luke Hughes (7 points, plus-9).

This week's new NCAA hockey rankings came out on Monday morning and remarkably, Michigan is still ranked fourth in the nation, behind three schools from Minnesota. I must investigate at some point!
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