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Scenes from Canucks practice: Garland dons a neck guard as Canucks return from quick Christmas break

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Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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The Vancouver Canucks returned from their brief holiday break and skated for an hour at Rogers Arena during the noon hour on Wednesday. All hands were on deck and no one, apparently, was delayed returning from their Christmas vacation.

What we saw

The Canucks skated in the same line combinations and defensive pairings the team used in Saturday’s 7-4 win over San Jose. That suggests the team will line up that way again on Thursday night against Philadelphia. Expect Andrei Kuzmenko to once again play with Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev, and look for Nils Aman to get the nod over Phil Di Giuseppe. 
After a few days away from the rink, it was no surprise the focus at practice was on fitness and battle drills as opposed to line rushes and special teams. Toward the end of the session, Rick Tocchet and Adam Foote gathered the seven defencemen on the ice for a lengthy meeting at one end while the forwards shot on the two goalies at the other. The defensive meeting lasted at least 10 minutes. While the Canucks have been grinding out results on a 7-0-2 run prior to Christmas, the team has surrendered four goals in each of its last two games against the Sharks and before that in Dallas.
Conor Garland arrived at practice sporting a black neck guard. It was the first time this season any member of the Canucks has worn neck protection on the ice. A handful of players around the NHL have been experimenting with the protective device since the tragic death of Adam Johnson from a skate cut during a professional game in England in October. Garland is expected to debut the new look in game action on Thursday versus the Flyers.
Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin were keen observers for much of practice taking in the skate from seats in the end zone of the lower bowl. They were joined for a while by Philadelphia’s new President of Hockey Operations – and former Flyers teammate of Rick Tocchet – Keith Jones.
After Tocchet conducted his media availability, he casually held court with the many Flyers broadcasters and beat writers that are in Vancouver for Thursday’s game.

What we heard

Conor Garland on the decision to wear a neck guard: “We tried to get them out here earlier, but it took a while to get ordered as you can imagine. I wore one in junior. It’s a personal choice. I think it’s good. It’s obviously more protection. I’ve worn one my whole life except in the American League and the NHL, it’s something I’m not unfamiliar with. It shouldn’t be too much of a story. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of guys wearing them more and more.”
Rick Tocchet on his defensive summit toward the end of practice: “It was more walkthroughs. We haven’t had much practice time. Adam (Foote) has me thinking we have to start doing more of these. Just scenarios. I love when guys get involved and they ask questions. So it was more just scenarios and walkthroughs: ‘hey what do you do in these situations?’ We want to break out the puck like this, where should you be? Things like that.”

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