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Canucks game day: 9 All Stars share the ice as Maple Leafs make lone visit of season to Vancouver

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Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
5 months ago
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It’s Hockey Day In Canada, and as part of the nationwide celebration of the game, the Vancouver Canucks (30-11-4) will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (22-13-8) in a 4 o’clock start at Rogers Arena. Both teams are coming off victories on Thursday, with the Canucks edging Arizona 2-1 while the Leafs got past Calgary 4-3.
The game will be a preview of All-Star weekend in Toronto in two weeks’ time, with nine All-Stars sharing the ice: five Canucks (Thatcher Demko, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, JT Miller and Brock Boeser) and four Leafs (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly).

What we know

With the early start for the national television audience, neither team will take the ice for a morning skate. Both held practices at Rogers Arena on Friday. The Canucks conducted an optional skate, so it’s hard to know what plans Rick Tocchet has for his line-up. 
Questions abound about Andrei Kuzmenko after he was benched for the third period against the Coyotes. The Canucks recalled Linus Karlsson from AHL Abbotsford yesterday and he could be an option to take Kuzmenko’s spot in the line-up. Karlsson scored in both of the games he played on the farm this week since being re-assigned on Tuesday.
There is no doubt Elias Pettersson will be in the line-up. He has been on a roll with goals in seven of his last nine games and a total of 11 goals over that span. He opened the scoring on Thursday on a first period power play and has now scored with the man-advantage in back to back games. Dakota Joshua had the winner against the Coyotes and has established a new career-high with his 12th goal of the season.
Thatcher Demko stopped 20 of 21 Coyotes shots and has denied 46 of the last 47 shots he’s faced in wins over Buffalo and Arizona. Demko is 11-1-1 in his last 13 starts with a 2.37 GAA, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts over that stretch.
The Canucks are 14-2-3 now in their last 19 hockey games. They are also 7-1 in their last eight games on home ice.
The Canucks have been involved in four straight one-goal games winning three of them and falling in a shootout in the other. The last time either team in a Canucks game had a two-goal lead was the second period in Pittsburgh four games ago when Vancouver held a 3-1 edge.
Tonight is Rick Tocchet’s 82nd game behind the Canucks bench since taking the coaching reins on January 22nd a year ago. The Canucks are 50-23-8 in that time. Their 108 point total is tied for third in the NHL with Vegas and the New York Rangers.
The Leafs snapped a four-game losing skid (0-3-1) with a 4-3 victory in Calgary. Auston Matthews recorded his fourth hattrick of the season and also added an assist. The league’s leading goal scorer now has 37 goals in 42 games. He has 23 goals in his last 21 games and is now three shy of the 40 goals he scored in 74 games last season.
While Matthews leads Toronto in goals, William Nylander is the Leafs top scorer with 21+38=59. Captain John Tavares has gone six games without a point and seven without a goal.
North Vancouver’s Martin Jones has provided the Leafs with some goaltending stability. The veteran leads Toronto with nine wins on the season whlie posting a 2.40 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 14 starts. He has been busy recently starting nine of the Leafs last 10 games. 
After its win in Calgary, Toronto is now 8-2 against Pacific Division teams. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 5-2 in their first meeting of the season in Toronto on November 11th. Neither Auston Matthews nor Mitch Marner figured in the scoring in that game although William Nylander scored his 10th goal of the season.
Today’s game features six of the top 17 point producers in the NHL and four of the top 19 goal-scorers.

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on trying to stop Auston Matthews: “You’ve got to protect the guts of the ice with that guy. I mean, I saw the goal against Calgary. Somehow he got the puck in the middle and then when he gets the puck in that high slot, his shot is probably one of the best in the league, obviously, he can score from anywhere. So if he’s going to score or if you want him to shoot, hopefully it’s from the outside. So that’s your game plan at least is to protect the guts of the ice against him.”

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