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Scenes from Canucks skate: Ilya Mikheyev returns, Casey DeSmith starts vs. Panthers

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Photo credit:© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
5 months ago
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A .500 Vancouver Cancuks team heads into Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers.
While that sentence may sound great to fans in mid-January, it isn’t as positive given its current context. After knocking off the alleged cup-contender Edmonton Oilers in back-to-back contests to begin the season, the Canucks have lost two straight games and will look to get back on track tonight against the Panthers.

What went down

Courtesy of Thomas Drance, here are the Canucks’ line rushes from today’s morning skate:
Some key notes:
-Ilya Mikheyev makes his long-awaited return to the Canucks’ lineup after undergoing ACL surgery in February. He’ll slot right in alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko. There was a stretch early on last season where that trio was one of the best lines in the entire league, so it will be interesting to see how a fully healthy Mikheyev can impact them. Kuzmenko has been a bit quiet to start the new season, and Pettersson was a tad banged up earlier on this trip. Let’s see what Mikheyev can do for them.
-Somewhat surprisingly, Nils Höglander finds himself as the odd man out with Mikheyev’s return. It comes as a surprise because Höglander has been flourishing despite playing in a bottom six role, and was even out late in the third period during the Canucks’ last win when head coach Rick Tocchet was shortening his bench. I wonder if Anthony Beauvillier swaps places with Höglander next game if the former has another lacklustre performance tonight.
-Casey DeSmith starts in goal, and you have to like Tocchet’s reasoning for it. Speaking of which…

What was said

Head coach Rick Tocchet spoke about the thought process of putting Ilya MIkheyev right back with Pettersson and Kuzmenko.
“Just like forecheck,” said Tocchet when asked what he hopes Mikheyev can bring to that line. “He’s going to help Petey. I think we gotta get a guy on there who can win some puck battles for us and get the puck to Petey. When you have a player like him [Elias Pettersson], the more touches he has on his stick, the more good things are going to happen. But I’ve got to manage his minutes, I don’t think it’s super prudent for him to play a ton tonight with Petey so I might throw some guys in there every once in a while to relieve Mik, but he’s anxious to go. We’re in it for the long haul, and I don’t want to burn this guy out.”
Tocchet also touched on the decision to go with DeSmith tonight in goal, and admitted that there’s certainly some temptation to go with Demko after two straight losses, but that managing Demko’s workload for the long haul is much more important.
“Sure, but then you look, Casey’s had a hell of a camp and he’s played good games for us. We’re okay to play him. Demmer had a lot of action in Philly and some action there in Tampa, so we’re in it for the long haul. We’ve got a couple days before we play Nashville, so you’ve got to be comfortable playing your backup and we’re very comfortable playing Casey, for sure.”
Hockey Night in Canada’s coverage of tonight’s game kicks off at 4 PM Pacific!

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