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Scenes from morning skate: Canucks put power play units in a blender ahead of tilt with Penguins

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
1 month ago
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Fresh off the heels of a thrilling comeback victory on Saturday night over the Boston Bruins, the Vancouver Canucks are back in town and are preparing to defend home ice once again with the Pittsburgh Penguins making their lone visit of the season to Rogers Arena.
The last time these teams faced off was January 11th, 2024. In that game, Elias Pettersson potted two goals and two assists, capping off a 4-3 Canucks victory with a breakaway goal in overtime.
Here’s what we saw at today’s morning skate.

What we saw

Unsurprisingly, the Canucks do not appear to be changing up their even-strength lines, as they continue to roll with Miller, Pettersson, and Lindholm as centres:
Where we did see some personnel changes was with the power play, which appears to have been put in a blender ahead of tonight’s game.
It will be interesting to see which of these power play units we see deployed as the “first” unit, and which is the second unit. Thatcher Demko starts, which comes as a bit of a surprise, as Casey DeSmith has played just two games this month, both of which were losses. That being said, Demko helped the Canucks get back on track and snap their four-game losing streak with some timely saves Saturday night against Boston. We’ll see if DeSmith gets the start on Thursday with the Kings in town.

What was said

As you may have guessed, the power play shakeup dominated the conversation after morning skate today.
JT Miller on the PP shakeup: “I just think we’re trying to get things going in general; it hasn’t been good, we all know that, and sometimes a new look can freshen things up a little bit… We should be excited, get some new looks, some new opportunities, and some guys getting more time.”
Quinn Hughes talks PP units: “We’ll see how it goes, both units have really good players on it, and we’re fortunate to be able to put out two units like that…it’s definitely a good thing. We just have too many good players on both units where we’re going to get our chances and get our looks, there’s ups and downs the entire year, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Rick Tocchet talks PP: “Sometimes you need a breather from each other, some guys maybe need their own units, take a shot at it and see how it works…Hopefully it works out. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, plus it gives a little freshness to it, and I saw a little juice out there from some guys.”
As mentioned above, I asked Tocchet about how he’ll manage his goalies down the final stretch of the season as Demko gets the start tonight: “I rely on Clarkie a lot, but we’re going to have to get Casey in. It’s not an exact science we [of how much] we want Demmer to play, but we know there’s a range we’ll need Demmer to play, and we’ve got to get Casey in here for sure. You’ve got to think long term. Demmer especially, and Casey, they get one-on-one time, sometimes he doesn’t have to practice, he’ll just go out with Clarkie and then we’ll kick him off the ice, we’re going to probably do that in the next two weeks, so that’ll help Demmer save the miles on him, and get Casey some reps. I mean, the poor guy, he’s played long stretches, 10 days, two weeks, it’s hard as a backup goaltender to do that.”

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