Canucks game day: Some stars sit out while others chase milestones in season-finale in Winnipeg

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
8 days ago
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On the final night of the National Hockey League’s regular season, the Vancouver Canucks (50-22-9) will make their one and only visit to Canada Life Centre to face the Winnipeg Jets (51-24-6).
Both teams are locked into their playoff positions and first-round match-ups, with the Canucks facing Nashville and Winnipeg set to take on Colorado. So there are no stakes in tonight’s game. It’s health for all above everything else, with a handful of personal milestones within reach for several players.

What we saw

The Vancouver Canucks are resting a number of their key players tonight. In fact, Brock Boeser did not even make the trip to Winnipeg as he continues to nurse a nagging ailment. So Boeser’s season ends with career-highs in games played (81), goals (40) and points (73).
JT Miller would have played his his 800th NHL game tonight. However, that milestone will have to wait until next year’s season opener. Miller will finish his Team MVP season with 37+66=103 points.
Veteran blueliners Filip Hronek and Ian Cole will also sit out tonight. That means Noah Juulsen and Mark Friedman draw in on defence while Phil Di Giuseppe and Nils Aman return to the line-up at forward. Hronek’s first full season with the Canucks concludes with a career-high 48 points.
As for the players that are suiting up tonight, a number of them are chasing significant individual markers. Quinn Hughes takes a two-point lead over Cale Makar into action tonight in the NHL defenceman scoring derby. 
Elias Pettersson needs one point to reach 90 for the second time in his NHL career.
Conor Garland, who had a hat trick in Game 82 in Arizona a year ago, needs one goal to reach 20 for the first time in three seasons in Vancouver. If Nils Höglander can score for a second straight game, he’ll reach 25 for the season. And Dakota Joshua, who has scored in back to back games and has five goals in nine games since returning from a hand injury, needs a pair of goals to become a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his career.
Thatcher Demko makes his second straight start in goal. He was sharp making 39 saves in a 4-1 win in Calgary on Tuesday. It was his first outing since injuring his knee against Winnipeg on March 9th.
The Jets appear ready to open the post-season having won seven straight games and outscoring opponents 31-13 in the process. They beat Seattle 4-3 on home ice on Tuesday to ensure home ice in their opening round series with Colorado. Tonight they shoot for a franchise-best 52nd win of the season.
Like the Canucks, the Jets are resting a number of key players tonight. Kyle Connor, who is riding an eight-game point streak during which he has amassed four goals and 12 points, will not play. Neither will Mark Scheifele, captain Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey, Brenden Dillon and Connor Hellebuyck.
Connor leads the Jets with 34 goals while Mark Scheifele leads the team with 72 points They are two of five 25-goal scorers on their roster (Toffoli 33, Monahan 26, Scheifele & Ehlers 25 apiece). 
The Jets will start Lauren Brossoit in goal with former Canuck Collin Delia serving as his back-up.
The teams have split their two meetings so far this season with both games played in Vancouver. The Jets posted a 4-2 win on February 17th while the Canucks blanked Winnipeg 5-0 on March 9th with Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith sharing the shutout.
Today’s referees: Ghislain Hebert and Peter MacDougall

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on making line-up decisions for tonight: “I wish I could have 10 guys out, but I can’t. It really comes down to the guys who are banged up and the guys that need it. There’s never an easy decision, but it’s usually the guys that are banged up that get (the night) off.”
Tocchet on what he expects from a game with nothing on the line: “Both teams want to play the right way. Get ready for Sunday. We want to play our game. We’ll work on some things and then get on a flight and get out of here and get ready for Nashville.”
Tocchet on if starting playoffs on Sunday allows enough time for team to prepare for the Predators: “It’s a tough turn around. You’re going to have to cram some stuff on Saturday. It’s a day off tomorrow for the boys. Then you’ve got to be careful not to give the guys too much. You deal with the cards you’re dealt. Obviously, if you had an extra couple of days you could prepare a little more. Usually you adjust after Game 1. They know us, we know them. There’s some tweaks here and three. It’s all about excitement. The X’s and O’s, these guys know what to do.”
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