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Scenes from morning skate: Cole McWard makes season debut as Canucks battle Ducks on Hockey Fights Cancer night

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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It’s going to be a busy night at Rogers Arena when the Vancouver Canucks (14-7-1) host the Anaheim Ducks (9-12). It’s Hockey Fights Cancer night, Andrei Kuzmenko returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in a pair of games over the weekend, and Quinn Hughes looks to re-write the Canucks’ record book. 

What we saw

The Canucks held an optional skate this morning, with approximately half the team opting in. Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek both took to the ice after being given Monday off as maintenance days.
Cole McWard will draw into the lineup and make his season debut on defence. The 22-year-old played five games late last season after leaving Ohio State University. McWard has a goal and three assists in 15 games at the AHL level in Abbotsford this season. Mark Friedman will sit out along with Akito Hirose. 
Andrei Kuzmenko returns after being a healthy scratch the last two games. Kuzmenko has gone nine games without a goal and has just one in his last 14 games. A year ago at this time, Kuzmenko had 10+11=21 through his first 22 NHL games. This season he has 3+11=14. Kuzmenko scored his first NHL hat trick against the Ducks last November. To make room for Kuzmenko, it appears Phil Di Giuseppe will come out of the lineup for the first time this season.
Quinn Hughes chases history tonight. The Canucks captain carries an 11-game point streak into action tonight. That matches the club record for consecutive games with a point for Canucks defensemen. Earlier this season, Filip Hronek joined Dennis Kearns with an 11-game streak.  Hughes has 4+13=17 on his current run. With Kuzmenko back, Rick Tocchet confirmed that Hronek will remain on the team’s top power play unit for the time being.
Despite still being a top-10 scorer in the league, Elias Pettersson has hit a rough patch with his production. In his last eight games, Pettersson has 1+3=4 and 14 shots on goal – tied for seventh on the team in both points and shots.
After a surprising 9-6 start, the Ducks have dropped six straight in regulation following an 8-2 loss in Edmonton on Sunday night, and they’ve been outscored 30-11 over that skid. While they are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, half of their 58 goals on the season have come in the third period. Only Colorado has scored more third period goals than the Ducks.
Frank Vatrano leads Anaheim with 13 goals. He already has a pair of hattricks along with a two-goal game. Mason McTavish is the team’s top point-getter with 10+11-21.
According to NHL, the Ducks are the fifth youngest team in the NHL. They have seven roster players (and two more on injured reserve) born in the 2000s. That includes Leo Carlsson, the third youngest player in the league this season, who doesn’t turn 19 until December 26th. The second overall pick in June’s draft, Carlsson has six goals and nine points in his first 14 NHL games.
Discipline could be an issue for Anaheim against the third-ranked power play in the league. The Ducks lead the NHL in minor penalties, major penalties, bench penalties and total penalties taken, along with overall penalty minutes accumulated this season.
John Gibson came on in relief of Lukas Dostal on Sunday in Edmonton and will get the start tonight. The 30-year-old Pittsburgh native is 13-4-2 with a 2.16 and 929 with three shutouts in 19 career appearances against the Canucks. Gibson is two appearances away from tying Jean-Sebastian Giguere for the most games played by a goalie in Ducks history.
Tonight’s referees: Francis St. Laurent & Jean Hebert

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on inserting Cole McWard into the lineup: “I want to see him. Get a look at him. He’s a mobile guy and maybe he’s a guy that can get some shots through for us. He played well at camp. He’s done well down there (Abbotsford) and sometimes guys in the minors they actually play better up in the NHL than in the minors because it’s more structured. I think Cole is one of those guys that thrives in a structured environment so we’ll see how he does tonight.”
Tocchet on dip in Pettersson’s production: “I’m happy with the fact he recognizes he has to play better in certain situations. He knows it. Sometimes you’re reading off other people too much, I told him the other day, just go. You do you’re thing, it’s our job to get other people to react off you. He’s just got to be more decisive, play a little quicker through the neutral zone. He’s obviously a hell of player. He still contributes even when he’s not on his game. That’s the sign of a great player.”
Brock Boeser on nearly being a healthy scratch on last year’s Hockey Fights Cancer night and now having a share of the NHL lead in goals: “It just shows how crazy this league is. There are times when you’re low of lows and then there’s times when you’re at highs. It’s a roller coaster, but you’ve got to stay even keeled, focus on the process and work hard.”

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