After sending down 10 players to the Manitoba Moose yesterday, the Vancouver Canucks are putting a veteran-laden lineup on the ice tonight as they host the San Jose Sharks.
With 3 pre-season games remaining, and having used their prior games as tryouts for many players, the Canucks appear to be using tonight’s game as an actual warm-up to the season.
So what will we see tonight?
Cory Schneider will play full 60 minutes, with Eddie Lack in backup.
1. Cody Hodgson sees his second game of the pre-season, and is being given a great opportunity to showcase his talent with Kesler and Raymond on the second line. Hodgson needs to show that he can take hold of this type of chance and flourish. Jordan Schroeder was not able to do and was subsequently sent down to Manitoba to further hone his game. Granted, Schroeder was quite given the same linemates during pre-season, but he was still unable to prove that he was ready for NHL minutes yet.
2. The six-man defensive roster is what many would expect to start for the Canucks come October 9th, with the exception of inserting Andrew Alberts in for Shane O’Biren. That said, I can’t see the actual pairings matching what we’re expected to see tonight. First and foremost, given his play in the pre-season, there is no way that Bieksa would make the top pairing. Much like Hodgson, Bieksa is being given an opportunity to show what he can do. Right now, Bieksa is facing a lot of scrutiny, and is frankly under a lot of pressure to perform. If he expects to stay in the top 4, he had better ramp up his game and effort level significantly. I still think that Bieksa will end up as the 6th defenseman.
3. I really like the make-up of the third line, and even predicted it as a probable line combination earlier this year. Although, at the time, Torres hadn’t signed and I had Hodgson pencilled in on the wing. I didn’t like that combo, but having Torres and Hansen together provide a lot of grit and jam, with Malhotra as the steady hand between them. Frankly, the third line wing position is Hansen’s to lose. The Canucks’ staff and management are giving him the chance to win the job out-right, leaving the open positions solely on the 4th line.
4. With Rypien out, Darcy Hordichuk should have taken the opportunity to claim a spot as incumbant on the 4th line. Tonight, Hordi sits and we’ll get to see how the Canucks will play without a bonafide fighter. Frankly, I don’t care to have Hordichuk anywhere near the ice as he’s a liability every time he’s out there. If Victor Oreskovich can get his physical play going, then I could definitely see him on the 4th line.
5. With a solid set of defensemen in front of him, we need to see Cory Schneider rebound from a shaky effort on Sunday. With the possible exception of Mason Raymond, everyone took a 60-minute nap Sunday against the Oilers. So we’ll assume that the effort level of the Canucks skaters is noticeably more amped up tonight. Given that, Schneider needs to prove he can rebound from a poor start. All goalies are going to have off nights. That’s a known. The great goalies are those that can put those poor starts in their rearview mirror, refocus on the next game, and make some key saves early.
Tonight’s game should be a good showcase of what the Canucks will actually look like when they celebrate their 40th season on October 9th. Let’s hope we like what we see.