As the preseason winds down, the Canucks roster is starting to more closely resemble who we can expect to see in the lineup for opening night. With the exception of the Sedins and Radim Vrbata (who, I have a sneaking suspicion about this, have already made the team), Vancouver will bring essentially all their notable regular players to Rexall place and this evening’s battle with the Edmonton Oilers.
Perhaps the most interesting twist is that Bo Horvat will be playing on the 4th line tonight between Tom Sestito and Derek Dorsett, who our own J.D. Burke did an excellent job of profiling this morning. Read past the jump for lineups, and what this could mean for Bo Horvat’s chances to make the 2014-15 Canucks.
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According to Jim Jamieson of the Province, Vancouver’s lines should look something like this:
Brad Richardson, Zack Kassian, and Frank Corrado aren’t scheduled to dress due to injuries, but the top two lines could conceivably form Vancouver’s middle-6 forwards in the season opener next Wednesday against the Calgary Flames. With the Sedins and Vrbata taking top line duty, that essentially leaves Kassian, Richardson, Horvat, Dorsett, Shinkaruk, Jensen, and Sestito in competition for the final few roster spots.
This is probably also why Bo Horvat is skating on the 4th line tonight – Willie Desjardins and Jim Benning likely want to see Horvat in a bottom-6 role to see if his performance there justifies his inclusion on the opening night roster. Unlike Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen, it’s NHL or bust for Bo Horvat. If management feels as if sending him back to the London Knights is a wasted year, then they’ll give Horvat every opportunity to stick with the big club, even if that means burying him on line 4. Of course, it’s not do-or-die time for Horvat yet – I’d guess that he’ll see some NHL regular season time too before they make the CHL-or-NHL call.
Cal O’Reilly’s name is an interesting one this late in the preseason, and our friends at Pass It To Bulis were speculating about his continued presence in Canucks training camp just a few days ago. I think the explanation for his inclusion is pretty simple: the Canucks weren’t planning to play Henrik Sedin tonight, they needed an extra C if someone was hurt, Brad Richardson got hurt, so they kept O’Reilly around. I’d expect that, barring a 5-point night tonight, he’ll be waived and assigned to Utica as soon as tomorrow morning where he could once again centre Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen on the top line of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate.
Eddie Lack also gets to stake his claim to Vancouver’s starting job once more, as he’ll get the start with Ryan Miller backing up. Lack literally cannot have been any better so far this preseason, and while he has to let in a goal eventually, we can still hope that he’s found the secret to turning everyone on the opposing team into 2013-2014 Alex Edler and will never allow a goal ever again.
The Oilers will have their top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov dressed, but other than that, it’s mostly guys battling for roster spots. Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Benoit Pouliot are among the Oilers who aren’t dressed, which is odd, considering that 9 players in EDM’s lineup tonight also played yesteday. Still, this is an Oilers lineup that a Sedin-less Vancouver squad should be able to handle, especially with the defense corps the Canucks are bringing to town.