The Vancouver Canucks slim playoff hopes took another hard hit on Monday.
Bo Horvat took an Alex Edler slapshot off the foot in front of Connor Hellebuyck. He then struggled mightily to get back to the bench.
Horvat was quickly ruled out for the game.
Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle also missed last night’s game, so there’s a good chance that the Canucks will play Wednesday without any of the four centres they started the season with.
J.T. Miller — who’s been an excellent face-off man for the Canucks since joining the team — is the de facto number one centreman on the team. So, who else is an option?
Gaudette has not been strong in the face-off dot since making it to the NHL, but this has been his “best” season to date. He has a 43.5% success rate in the face-off dot this season, while largely playing on the wing.
With the lack of offensively-minded players who could move to centre, Gaudette likely slides into a second-line spot for Wednesday night’s match-up.
Boeser has been been the Canucks best skater at season, so why not see if he can help hold it down a centre for one night?
Although primarily a winger, Boeser has taken more face-offs at the NHL level (172) than most options on this list. The issue is that his face-off win percentage is 37.8%.
What a time for Motte to return to the line-up.
Motte played more than 20 minutes in his return against the Ottawa Senators, and hasn’t played less than 15 minutes in four games since re-joining the club.
Despite his versatility, Motte is not a strong centreman. His career face-off percentage of 34.4% makes Gaudette look like a face-off ace.
Although he only has two points in 11 games, Hawrykuk has taken a page out of Motte’s book by playing like a little ball of energy for the Canucks.
He’s actually had some modest success in the face-off dot at the NHL level, clicking at 56% in 32 opportunities. Based on this “wealth” of success, Hawryluk likely slides is as the third line centre on Wednesday night if no one else is healthy enough to go.
The career AHLer has quickly become one of Vancouver’s most experienced centres available. With 415 career face-offs taken, Graovac trails only Miller and Gaudette among healthy forwards on the roster.
However, he was no ace during his first NHL game of the season on Monday against Winnipeg, going 0-for-6 on face-offs.
The German forward brought speed — and not much else — during six games for the Canucks this season. A very Griffen Molino-esque performance indeed.
Michaelis does have some experience playing centre at other levels...and he leads all Canucks with 100% face-off efficiency this season! The German forward is 1-0 in the face-off dot at the NHL level.
What might the Canucks optimal lines look like on Wednesday?
As you can see above, the options are limited for the Canucks if none of Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle or Bo Horvat can go on Wednesday. Elias Pettersson has already been ruled out until after the Canucks’ week off.
Travis Boyd, who was just claimed off of waivers from Toronto, has to serve a one-week quarantine before joining the team. Prospect Kole Lind is also recovering from an injury in Vancouver, and could pull a Tyler Graovac by joining the Canucks once he is ready...but that won’t be in time for Wednesday.
With that out of the way, here’s a look at what the Canucks lineup could look like on Wednesday.
Time to raise an eyebrow of intrigue...or shudder and close your eyes.
Line 1: Jimmy Vesey — J.T. Miller — Jake Virtanen
From waivers and the press box to the de facto top line.
That’s where Vesey and Virtanen could end up. They’ve looked okay alongside Miller as this line has been rocking an expected goals-for total of 63.3%.
While you could load up Boeser, Hoglander and Miller on one line, the line-up starts to look really ugly if you go that route. It’s probably best to just keep Vesey, Miller and Virtanen together for one more game and see if they can breakthrough after some modest success.
Line 2: Nils Hoglander — Adam Gaudette — Brock Boeser
As I mentioned this morning on The Quickie, there’s no Canuck that might have a better opportunity because of these injuries aside from Gaudette.
It makes the most sense to slot him in as a second-line centre...mainly because none of the other options have the offensive ceiling that Gaudette does. Perhaps pairing him with the Canucks best skater this season in Boeser can help him in this elevated role.
Line 3: Marc Michaelis — Jayce Hawryluk — Tyler Motte
The third line of the Canucks is entirely built for speed. Hawryluk and Motte are the two spark plug in Vancouver’s line-up, and Michaelis’s speed-first game meshes well with that line.
In a very limited 14 even-strength minutes, Michaelis, Hawryluk and Sutter had an expected goals percentage of 66.7%. Here’s hoping that they can be even more effective with Motte on that line instead of Sutter.
Line 4: Antoine Roussel — Tyler Graovac — Zack MacEwen
There are only four healthy bodies remaining if Horvat, Beagle and Sutter are all unavailable on Wednesday. With Loui Eriksson all but done as an NHLer, the last line here keeps together Roussel and MacEwen, who have had some looks over the past few games. MacEwen in particular had a couple of high-danger chances on Monday night.
It’s no Picasso, but this is what the Canucks could be left with come Wednesday night.
Do you see a better arrangement than the one suggested above? Could this team actually win on Wednesday night? Let us know in the comments below.