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Scenes from Canucks practice: ‘We know we have another gear’ says JT Miller ahead of busy month

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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The Vancouver Canucks hit the ice for the first time in 2024 with a noon-hour practice at Rogers Arena. 

What we saw

Rick Tocchet clung to his standard response when asked whether Carson Soucy was a possibility to return to the Canucks’ lineup on Tuesday against Ottawa: ‘He’s close’ is all the coach would say. Soucy once again skated as an extra defenceman on Tuesday and remains on the NHL’s injured reserve list. It’s unlikely he will be in the lineup when the Canucks host the Senators. 

Miller missing the mark

JT Miller starts into the new year tied for fifth in National Hockey League scoring with 45 points in the Canucks first 36 games. He was a point a game player in a dozen games in December so his production remains high. However, Miller has gone ice cold in the goal scoring department with his last goal coming on December 9th against Carolina. That leaves Miller without a goal in his last eight games, one goal in his last 10 and just two goals in the team’s last 16 games. 
Part of that is that Brock Boeser has done the bulk of the goal scoring for that line this season with 24 goals so far this season. But with Miller going quiet on the goal-scoring front and the other winger on that line whether Nils Höglander and now Phil Di Giuseppe, it puts pressure on Boeser to continue to be the finisher among that group.
For his part, Miller says he’s not fretting about his lack of goal scoring right now. But he knows there is room for overall improvement in the way his line has played of late.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied by any means, especially Brock and I have been a constant for pretty much a year now. We know we have another gear,” Miller said after Tuesday’s practice. “We don’t really pride ourselves on the production. We know if we’re playing the right way, it’s going to come. Production for us is playing in their end, cycling pucks… sometimes we get a match-up so it depends who we’re playing. But I think the break came at a good time for everybody and I want us to come out flying (vs Ottawa) especially with us playing and then going out on the road.”
Head coach Rick Tocchet says he has no concerns with Miller’s lack of goal scoring. However, for the Canucks to be successful as games get tighter in the season’s second half, there will certainly be some expectation that Miller – who has 15 goals on the season – will, once again, find his goal scoring touch.
“JT’s played really well for us,” Tocchet told the media on Tuesday. “And there’s going to be some stretches where you don’t get goals for whatever reason. That third line (Joshua-Blueger-Garland) has obviously been driving play, but I think we’ve tweaked some things offensively that will help. JT is a really good guy in front and he comes up with a lot of loose pucks, but he needs some help, too. I wouldn’t put too much pressure on him because his wingers have to help him out. That’s what I see.”
Part of Miller’s issue is a decline in his shot rate, but not at alarming levels. He scored 13 goals on his first 46 shots at the 20-game mark and has just two goals on 34 shots over the past 16 outings. Still, his shot rate is trending in the wrong direction with a total of 24 shots in 12 games in December. Of those, 11 were on the power play leaving Miller with just 13 even-strength shots on goal in the team’s last 12 dozen games. 
In December, Elias Pettersson led the Canucks with 42 shots (4 goals) followed by Brock Boeser with 34 (7 goals). Miller (2 goals) was tied with Conor Garland (1 goal) with both players recording 24 shots for the month.

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