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Canucks game day: Who comes out if Kuzmenko returns in San Jose?

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Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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The Vancouver Canucks wrap up their quick three-game road trip in San Jose tonight. Having played – and won 5-1 – in Seattle last night and then taking a late night flight to the Bay Area, the Canucks did not hold a morning skate. So it could be much closer to warm-up before Rick Tocchet reveals whether he will tamper with a line-up that was full value for the victory over the Kraken.
Casey DeSmith is expected to start in goal. He has not played since a 5-2 loss in Calgary on November 16th. DeSmith made his first three Vancouver starts on Saturday nights winning two and picking up a single point in the other. On the season, the back-up is 4-1-1 with a 2.89 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
As for the skaters in front of the goalie, Tocchet will have to give strong consideration to coming right back with the same players that got the job done so effectively in Seattle. However, that would mean Andrei Kuzmenko sits for a second straight game. 
If Kuzmenko returns, it begs the question who comes out of the line-up? Does anyone deserve to take a seat?
Based on the way they played and contributed offensively, it won’t be any member of the Dakota Joshua-Teddy Blueger-Conor Garland line. Joshua and Blueger both scored last night, Garland picked up a pair of primary assists and that line continues to be a driving force for the hockey club. 
Surely, it won’t be Nils Aman who looked good and drew rave reviews from the coach after posting a pair of assists in his season debut. Aman also led all Canucks forwards in short-handed ice time. And it definitely won’t be Nils Höglander who scored his seventh goal of the season last night and has now scored in four of the team’s last five games. With that goal, Höglander now leads the NHL in goals per 60 minutes of game action.
Anthony Beauvillier has gone 11 games since scoring his only two goals of the season the last time the Canucks were in San Jose on November 2nd. But Beauvillier continues to play hard and probably deserves another look on a line with JT Miller and Brock Boeser. 
Miller was twice hobbled after blocking shots last night. He threw himself in front of a Jamie Oleksiak shot late in the second period with the Canucks clinging to a 2-1 lead. He then blocked an Oliver Bjorkstrand shot with nine minutes to go with his team up 3-1. He’s a warrior so it’s hard to imagine he won’t be available to the Canucks tonight. 
That pretty much leaves Phil Di Giuseppe as the most likely candidate to come out of the line-up if Kuzmenko returns. PDG has gone ice cold offensively with just one point in his past six games and logged just 12:51 of ice time last night in a fourth line role. However, the veteran winger kills penalties and that may be enough to keep him in the line-up. 
As a result, Andrei Kuzmenko may be forced to watch for a second straight game. If so, the Russian’s reset will be longer than most expected. But with no goals in nine games and just one in 14, he has to find a way to contribute if he’s not generating offence. Friday should have been a lesson for him as he watched teammates lower on the depth chart make the most of their minutes and their opportunities. 
The Canucks will see the Sharks for the second time this week and the third time this month. Monday’s 3-1 victory at Rogers Arena was far more competitive than the 10-1 punishment the Canucks handed San Jose when the teams met at SAP Center to start November.
The Sharks lost 3-2 to Montreal in a shootout on Friday afternoon. Mike Hoffman, on his 34th birthday, and William Eklund staked San Jose to a 2-0 first period lead. However, that was it for their offence on the day.Their scoring struggles continued into the shootout where Eklund opened the scoring, but the five subsequent Sharks shooters all failed to put the puck in the net.
San Jose remains the lowest scoring team in the NHL with just 30 goals in 20 games. Hoffman’s goal was his team-leading fifth of the season. They’ve all come in the team’s last five games. Tomas Hertl leads the club with 14 points and is the only Sharks scorer in double-digits. Hertl assisted on both San Jose goals on Friday.
Filip Zadina left the game after five shifts and 4:14 of action with an upper body injury. He will not play tonight and will be replaced by Kevin Labanc was injured on Monday against the Canucks and has not played since.
MacKenzie Blackwood stopped 22 of 24 Montreal shots in Friday’s loss. He was sharp making 34 saves in Vancouver on Monday and could have been asked to go back to back. However, coach David Quinn has opted for Kaapo Kahkonen who lasted just 20 minutes in his last start giving up four goals on 17 shots in Seattle on Wednesday. Kahkonen is 1-6 with a 4.30 GAA and an .887 save percentage. He was ventilated for six of the Canucks 10 goals on November 2nd before he was given the hook.
San Jose is 3-15-2 on the season with all three of their victories coming on home ice. The Sharks started the season 0-10-1 before beating Philadelphia and Edmonton. Since then, they are 1-5-1 and have dropped three in a row.
The Canucks have won 11 straight match-ups against San Jose. A win tonight will establish a new franchise record for consecutive victories over a single opponent. 
Tonight’s referees: Trevor Hanson and Carter Sandlak

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