VANCOUVER CANUCKS (16-15-3) vs FLORIDA PANTHERS (23-7-5)
FLA LIVE ARENA, SUNRISE, FL
TV: SPORTSNET PACIFIC. RADIO: SPORTSNET 650
OPPOSING BLOG: LITTER BOX CATS
After another week and a half long pause that saw two more game postponements and a few Canucks go on and off the COVID protocol list, they’re ready to return to the ice. The problem is, they’ve got a road trip coming up that seems like they’re being punished again, though I’m sure the schedule makers didn’t anticipate the standings looking like this when they put it together.
I can’t recall a stretch of games that looked quite like this before, honestly. Five games in eight nights, as they run through the gauntlet of the top teams in the league, with only the Rangers as odd man out on this journey. While there’s not really an easy game in this lot, I suppose getting the Capitals as the tail end of the weekend back to back might be a blessing, as they’re the only one of the five who seem to be struggling over the last few games.
So what to make of these Panthers? Are they for real? Well, they’re certainly beasts in their own den, as their impressive 18-3-0 home record implies. On the road, where they’ve played just fourteen games so far this season? Not so much, so I would hesitate to crown these Cats king just yet. Lots of hockey for them to play, and a lot more on the road. As a matter of fact, these teams will meet again in the Canucks first game back at home after this trip next week. Fun stuff.
Florida’s assembled quite a crew, with some names familiar to us Pacific Division types, with Joe Thornton and perpetually 18 year old Sam Bennett, and some guy named Olli Juolevi? A guy who should be front and center tonight is Jonathan Huberdeau, who is having a career year with the Panthers, while leading the team in scoring. He’s not the only one though, as they have five players with double digit goals scored, and they could have four more join that club before the month is done.
The Canucks are about as healthy as they’ve been all season, knock on wood, and will have Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser back in the lineup tonight after missing time on the COVID protocol list. While both players were asymptomatic, their quarantine experiences couldn’t have been any different, and Boeser was rightfully frustrated by the whole thing, as he commented on it yesterday.
"It’s a big test for our group but it’s a test we need. You want to play the best and beat the best. We’re excited to be back together.”— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 10, 2022
Brock Boeser speaks to the media after practice in Florida pic.twitter.com/B0OaizH90Y
While we’ll see Thatcher Demko start tonight, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give Jaroslav Halak the start tonight. He’s been outstanding against the Panthers in his career, with a 13-5-2 record, and an impressive stat line, with a .926 SV% and a 2.36 GAA. Still, it’s hard to argue with continuing to turn to Demko after the performance he put in this past December.
Canucks projected lineup
Vasily Podkolzin — J.T. Miller — Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson — Elias Pettersson — Nils Hoglander
Jason Dickinson — Bo Horvat — Conor Garland
Tyler Motte — Juho Lammikko — Matthew Highmore
Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Tyler Myers
Scratched: Kyle Burroughs
COVID-19 protocol: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Justin Dowling, Alex Chiasson
Panthers projected lineup
Carter Verhaeghe — Aleksander Barkov — Sam Reinhart
Jonathan Huberdeau — Sam Bennett — Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano — Anton Lundell — Maxim Mamin
Ryan Lomberg — Eetu Luostarinen — Aleksi Heponiemi
MacKenzie Weegar — Aaron Ekblad
Olli Juolevi — Brandon Montour
Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Joe Thornton, Owen Tippett, Mason Marchment
COVID-19 protocol: Spencer Knight, Patric Hornqvist
Interesting that the Panthers are bringing Juolevi in for this one. He’s played just five games for them this season, and has zero points thus far. A little surprised to see crusty old Joe Thornton as a healthy scratch.
Jason Dickinson will join Boeser and Pettersson in returning from the COVID list tonight, and hopefully they can get through this trip without adding more, but let’s face it: Florida isn’t a place one goes to avoid getting COVID.
GAME DAY CHATTER
“I’d like to see how we do against teams of this calibre in their building…Seeing how we come out of this (next 7 games) is very important to us.”— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 11, 2022
Coach Bruce Boudreau talks to the media ahead of tonight's game#Canucks | @theprovince pic.twitter.com/mviCFm8YTr
“We’re playing a real good team here. Everybody is ready to go and we can’t wait to be playing hockey again.”— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 11, 2022
Bo Horvat#Canucks | @theprovince pic.twitter.com/qXHDRhxDD3
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
A beast of a road trip needs an absolute rager to kick things off, and VIO-LENCE are here to deliver the goods! The legendary Bay Area thrashers are back with their first new material in 29 years, and with a couple new members (ex-OVERKILL guitarist Bobby Gustafson and ex-FEAR FACTORY bassist Christian Olde-Wolbers), sound as vicious as their heyday in the late eighties. I cannot wait for this one to come out! This track is from their upcoming five song EP ‘Let The World Burn’ on Metal Blade Records later this year. Check out ‘Flesh From Bone’, and enjoy this damn game tonight, alright? It’s good to have the Canucks back. Go Canucks Go!