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Scenes from morning skate: Canucks sit Cole for Juulsen as struggling Habs visit Vancouver

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
27 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks (43-18-8) look for back to back wins when they host the Montreal Canadiens (25-31-12) at Rogers Arena. 
The Canucks held off Buffalo 3-2 on Tuesday while the Habs took Edmonton to overtime that same night before falling 3-2 on an Oiler power play goal in the extra session.

What we saw

After a team day off Wednesday, the Canucks conducted a full morning skate this morning. Former Canadien Noah Juulsen draws into the line-up on defence for Ian Cole. That is the only change to the Canucks line-up from Tuesday night. Nils Aman stays in on the fourth line in place of Phil Di Giuseppe. Rick Tocchet said that Cole is dealing with a minor ailment, but could have played tonight. The coach also revealed that Elias Lindholm is playing through something these days which may explain, to some degree, his lack of production lately.
Elias Pettersson had two goals and an assist to lead the Canucks charge against the Sabres. It was his first three-point game since February 15th. His first goal of the night was his 12th power play goal of the season after scoring just six with the man-advantage last season. Pettersson also set-up linemate Conor Garland for the game’s opening goal.
The Canucks have scored first in five straight games and in all four games on their current nine-game homestand they have opened the scoring in the first five minutes. Casey DeSmith starts for the third straight game. He has allowed more than three goals only once in his last five appearances.
The last time Montreal was in town in December 2022, these teams played one of the wildest games in recent memory in this city. The Habs jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead only to see the Canucks take a 5-4 lead midway through the third period. Then Montreal scored a pair of quick goals to jump back in front late in the third before the Canucks equalized with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Elias Pettersson then scored the winner in overtime to give the Canucks a 7-6 win.
The Canadiens limp into town with one win in their last six games (1-3-2) and just three victories in their last 15 (3-8-4) – and only two of those in regulation. A 3-0 win over Columbus 3-0 on March 12th is the only time in their past six games the Habs have scored more than two goals. Since February 15th, only Seattle has scored fewer goals than Montreal. A huge part of that is a power play that has operated at a league-worst 11.4% over that stretch.
Nick Suzuki leads the Habs with 27 goals and 64 points. As a team, Montreal is 26th in the NHL in offence with just four players in their line-up with more than 23 points on the season. 
In 19 games since the NHL All Star break, Suzuki has 14 goals. Juraj Slafkovsky has seven goals. No one else on the club has more than three. Surprisingly, despite the many issues the team has generating offence, only Colorado has more goals from its defencemen this season than the 43 the Habs blueline has produced.
Former Canuck Tanner Pearson, who missed much of last season with a hand injury, returns to Rogers Arena for the first time since last September’s trade that moved him to Montreal. Pearson was a healthy scratch on Tuesday in Edmonton and has 5+7=12 in the 48 games he’s played this season. Ironically, Pearson is drawing back in tonight because rookie Joshua Roy suffered a hand injury in Edmonton and has returned home for further evaluation.
Head coach Martin St. Louis has left the team to tend to a personal matter at home in Montreal. That means former Canuck Trevor Letowski is the acting head coach with Alex Burrows as one of the assistants.
The Canadiens have alternated goalie starts between Sam Montembault and Cayden Primeau over the past five games. However, they will break that rotation and give Montembault consecutive starts for the first time since March 7th and 9th. He is 0-2-3 in his last five starts with his last win coming February 27th against Arizona. Montembault is 1-5-3 in his last nine outings.
The Canucks beat the Canadiens 5-2 in their first meeting of the season in Montreal on November 12th. Conor Garland, Ilya Mikheyev, Dakota Joshua, Brock Boeser and Phil Di Giuseppe scored the Vancouver goals while Casey De Smith made 30 saves in goal for the victory.
Tonight’s referees: Jake Brenk & Kendrick Nicholson

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on getting Juulsen back into the line-up for Cole: “Coler is a little banged up. Push comes to shove, he could have played. But at this point, I want to get Ian Cole healthy.”
Tocchet on one of the things that may be holding Elias Lindholm back right now: “He’s a little banged up. He’s playing through a little thing here and there. Nothing major, but when he’s fully healthy, knowing the way he plays a smart game, I think that will all come together and he’ll be fine.”
Carson Soucy on Canucks holding six of their last seven opponents to two or fewer goals: “I think it starts with our forwards even before we get into our D zone, they’ve been doing such a good job tracking. And then just a lot of communication in our D zone closing plays. We’ve been really working on our box outs and just trying to let our goalies see the puck. Especially always that first one. And then obviously the goalies have played well.”
Noah Juulsen on his two seasons in Montreal after being a 2015 first round draft pick: “I think I learned a lot about myself as person. It wasn’t an easy time at times. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of injuries. I found a way to make me stronger as a person. I was hurt for a long time and it wears on you mentally and physically. You don’t know how it’s going to go.”
 
 

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