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Scenes from morning skate: Hughes and Makar in the spotlight as Canucks face Avs

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
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The stars will be out in Denver tonight when Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks (13-5-1) visit Cale Makar and the Colorado Avalanche (11-6). Hughes leads the NHL in scoring with 30 points and he and Makar, with 27 points, are the two highest scoring defencemen in the National Hockey League this season and each leads his respective team in scoring. On top of that, both are on impressive individual point streaks – Hughes has scored in back to back games and has four goals and 14 points on an eight-game run while Makar has three straight three-assist games and has recorded a goal and 15 helpers on a seven-game streak.
Tonight marks the Canucks 20th game of the season and their first of three match-ups with the Avs.

What we saw

The Canucks held an optional skate at Ball Arena this morning. Conor Garland took a personal day from practice yesterday, but is expected to be back in the Canucks line-up for the start of this three games in four nights road trip. Thatcher Demko is expected to make a third straight start in goal. And it will likely be warm-up before we know if Rick Tocchet plans to make any changes to his forward line combinations. Phil Di Giuseppe didn’t play much in the third on Monday against San Jose. Anthony Beauvillier saw spot duty on left wing with JT Miller and Brock Boeser. And Nils Höglander, who was ejected late in the second period for his slew foot on Kevin Labanc, is eligible to return to the line-up tonight.
Miller scored his 12th goal of the season in Monday’s 3-1 victory over the Sharks. Miller has scored in back to back games and has 10 goals in his last 13 outings. Miller has scored in 12 of the Canucks 19 games so far. He has been ruthlessly productive and consistent, but interestingly enough, does not have a two-goal game so far this season. Of the 16 double-digit goal scorers in the NHL so far this season, Miller is the only one without a multi-goal game.
While still among the league scoring leaders with 28 points, Elias Pettersson has cooled a little in the past 10 days registering 1+2=3 in his last 5 games and his power play goal in Calgary last Thursday is his lone goal in his past six outings. 
Andrei Kuzmenko will suit up for his 100th NHL game tonight. He has 42+46=88 in his first 99 games.
The Canucks are 0 for 5 on the power play over the past two games. They have not gone three straight games this season without converting with the man-advantage. Elias Pettersson’s first period goal in Calgary last week was the team’s last power play marker.
The Avalanche are still smarting from blowing a final minute lead in Nashville on Monday. Not only did the Predators score the equaliser with 38 seconds to go, they netted the winner with just 22 seconds remaining. That put an end to Colorado’s three-game win streak.Colorado has scored 22 goals in its last four games. 
While they are led in scoring by Makar (4+23=27), Mikko Rantanen (11+12=23) and Nathan MacKinnon 6+16=22), Valeri Nichuskin and Andrew Cogliano are holding the hot hands heading into tonight’s contest. Nichuskin has matched his career-best by scoring in four straight games (5 goals) while Cogliano has found the back of the net in three straight outings.
The Avalanche head into tonight’s game in a four-way tie with Edmonton, Carolina and Pittsburgh for the league-lead averaging 34 shots per game.
For all of their fire power, Colorado’s power play has yet to find its groove this season entering the night 19th in the NHL converting 13 of 67 opportunities (19.4%). That said, the Avs power play is showing signs of life scoring in four straight games and going 5/18 (27.8%) over that span. Port Moody’s Ryan Johansen leads the Avs with four power play goals on the season.
AlexandarGeorgiev is expected to make his sixth straight start in goal tonight for Colorado.
Tomas Tatar is slated to appear in his 800th NHL game tonight. Defenceman Samuel Girard will miss tonight’s contest due to personal reasons.
These teams don’t meet again until February 20th in Denver. The Avs make their lone visit to Vancouver on March 13th.
Tonight’s referees: Pierre Lambert & Tom Chmielewski

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on the excitement of tonight’s test against the Avs: “You see players excited to play these types of teams. You’re playing against a Stanley Cup champion team from a few years ago. You’re playing against Cale Makar. Him and Hughes. Like, imagine watching those two guys play tonight. MacKinnon. Great players, great team, great building to play in. So it’s a good test for us tonight.”
Tocchet on starting into three games in four nights to finish off gruelling 10 in 17 stretch: “Sometimes as a player, you think ‘Oh my god that’s a lot of games’ but it’s a lot of mental. We had a little skate yesterday. Guys didn’t even go on the ice today — well, a few guys. I don’t think fatigue is going to be a problem and every team has to go through this. For me, the mental aspect is a pack mentality. If you think as a pack and everybody gives 10 percent more, usually you come out really strong on the results.”

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