Scenes from morning skate: Can Demko and the Canucks contain Kucherov as Tampa comes to town?

Photo credit:© Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 months ago
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It will be a night of star-gazing at Rogers Arena when the Vancouver Canucks (18-9-1) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (13-11-5). Nikita Kucherov and JT Miller are the National Hockey League top two point producers while Kucherov and Brock Boeser are two of the league’s top three goal scorers.
The Canucks are looking to push their win streak to three straight while the Bolts are in search of their fourth win in five outings.

What we saw

The Canucks will roll with the same lineup they used to beat Carolina 4-3 on Saturday.
Rick Tocchet confirmed after the morning skate that Pius Suter is now medically cleared to return to the lineup, but will not play tonight. The coach hinted that Suter could play Thursday against Florida. But he also cautioned that he needed to see Suter ramp up his participation in battle drills and absorb some contact before he would use him in a game.
Thatcher Demko returns to the net tonight looking for his first ever win over the Lightning. He is 0-3 in four appearances against the Bolts. Demko made 21 saves in a 4-3 win over Carolina on Saturday. Elias Pettersson had a goal and two assists in that game. It was his first three-point effort since November 9th at Ottawa.
Sam Lafferty opened the scoring against the Hurricanes. He has scored in three of the last four games. 
Quinn Hughes has cooled a little after a scorching start to the season. The Canucks captain has gone two games without a point and has 1+2=3 in his last six games. Even with the slow stretch, Hughes still leads all NHL defencemen in goals (9) and is tied with Colorado’s Cale Makar for points with 36. 
Hand in hand with the dip in production from Hughes is a Canucks power play that is just 1 for its last 16 over the past five games and 4 for its last 34 (11.8%) over the last 11 contests.
Tampa is here after a 4-3 overtime victory in Seattle on Saturday. Kucherov scored twice including the winner 3:12 into OT. It was just the Bolts 5th road win of the season (5-8-2). Kucherov enters play tonight tied with Auston Matthews with 19 goals on the season and one ahead of Brock Boeser. He leads the NHL with 47 points seven better than JT Miller. Kucherov also leads the league with 137 shots on goal this season.
Steven Stamkos missed the game with an illness, but the Lightning captain practiced on Monday at UBC and is expected to play tonight. Stamkos scored his 500th NHL goal in his last visit to Vancouver in January. Tonight he has a chance to reach another significant milestone. If he scores on the power play it will be his  200th goal with the man advantage. Two power play points tonight will give him 400 for his career.
Victor Hedman left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as questionable tonight. His absence would be a blow to the Bolts as the veteran defenceman is third on the team with 27 points and leads all Tampa skaters in average ice time at 23:39 per game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the start tonight. The former Vezina winner is 4-3 on the season with a 2.70 GAA and a .899 save percentage after returning from early season back surgery. He missed the Bolts first 20 games as he recovered from microdiscectomy to address a lumbar disk herniation.
Tampa’s power play is 29 of 97 which ranks it third in the league at 29.9%.
Tanner Jeannot leads the NHL with 101 hits and is the only player to have crested the century mark.
The Bolts are 4–0-1 against Pacific Division opponents this season. That includes Kucherov scored twice as Tampa Bay defeated the Canucks 4-3 at Amalie Arena on October 19th. Tampa has won seven straight against the Canucks and is 9-1 in the last 10 meetings. In Vancouver, Tampa has prevailed in eight of its last 10 visits. The last Canucks home ice win over the Lightning was December 16, 2016 – the night Mattias Ohlund took his spot in the Canucks Ring of Honour
Tonight’s referees are Brian Pochmara and Brandon Blandina.

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on trying to contain Nikita Kucherov: “I just marvel at his game. Probably for the last eight years, you could put him with one or two or three other guys as the best pressure players in the game. When the heat is on, somehow he makes the right play. He’s done it a million times. He always does something unreal. When we played him a month ago, I thought we were doing pretty well and there was a five minute stretch and he took over the game and it was the Kucherov show. That’s what he can do.”
Quinn Hughes on Canucks dormant power play of late: “It’s an encouraging thing that we’re winning games without the power play leading the way. At some point this year, we’re going to have to rely on the power play and it hasn’t been hot per se. Every year it’s like this. We have a great unit that’s going to go through ruts where we’re really hot or we’re not hot. We just have to get back to what we’re good at and we’ll find our way.”
JT Miller on Canucks opening the scoring in 19 of their 28 games so far and rarely chasing the game as they have in past years: “It’s definitely nice. It’s exhausting when you’re chasing the game. You get out of character and do dumb things and make riskier plays, It’s nice to have that ‘play with the lead’ mentality. We talk about being comfortable going to the third period with the lead and that’s what we’re striving to have. And we’ve had lots of leads going to the third so far. It’s just nice to know that you don’t have to take a shot every time you can because you’ve got to get back in the game.”


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