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Scenes from morning skate: Kuzmenko a healthy scratch as Canucks shake up lines in Seattle

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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It’s the proverbial four pointer as the Vancouver Canucks (13-6-1) and Seattle Kraken (8-8-5) meet for the second time this week. A Canucks win in regulation will move them eight points up on their Cascadia rival. But if the Kraken pull off a second regulation win in six days over the Canucks, they will move within four points and definite striking distance in the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings. Seattle beat Vancouver 4-3 at Rogers Arena last Saturday and they’ll try to do it again tonight at Climate Pledge Arena.

What we saw

After a day off Thursday for US Thanksgiving, the Canucks were back on the ice and held a full morning skate in Seattle. In a surprise move, it will be a black Friday for Andrei Kuzmenko who will be a healthy scratch tonight. The Russian winger has gone nine games without a goal and has just one in his last 14 games. He has no points in three games since being forced to miss a game in Calgary last week with a facial contusion. Nils Åman, called up from Abbotsford this morning, looks set to make his season debut.
With Kuzmenko out, Rick Tocchet is shaking up three of his four lines adding Sam Lafferty’s speed to Elias Pettersson’s wing, starting Anthony Beauvillier with JT Miller and Brock Boeser while Phil Di Giuseppe starts on the fourth line for the first time this season along with the two Nils – Åman and Höglander. The Dakota Joshua-Teddy Blueger-Conor Garland line is the only one to remain intact.
This will be the second time in his NHL career Kuzmemko has been banished to the press box. Bruce Boudreau made him a healthy scratch in the Canucks 16th game of last season on November 13, 2022 in Boston. 
It appears both Tyler Myers and Mark Friedman will play tonight after getting shaken up in Colorado on Wednesday. In fact, it looks like they will be paired together with Myers set to move to the left side. Abbotsford call-up Cole McWard also took part in the skate in the Emerald City although he is not expected to play tonight along with Akito Hirose.
The Canucks are looking to rebound from Wednesday’s 5-2 loss in Colorado. The team has dropped three of its last four and four of its last seven. Thatcher Demko makes his fourth straight start in goal. He is 1-2 in his last three outings.
Both Quinn Hughes (4+11=15) and JT Miller (7+7=14) look to extend their point streaks to double-digits tonight. For Hughes, that would match his career-high established early last season. Miller has a career-best streak of 13 games. Nils Höglander has scored in three of the last four games and has 3+1=4 on a four-game point streak.
The Canucks need a few players to find their scoring touch. Anthony Beauvillier has gone 10 without a goal. Conor Garland has one in his last 19 while Dakota Joshua has one in 18. Garland, Joshua, Phil Di Giuseppe and Ilya Mikeheyev all last scored in Montreal six games ago.
After scoring on its first attempt in Calgary last Thursday, the Canucks power play has fizzled on 10 straight attempts. It has gone three straight games without scoring for the first time all season. With Kuzmenko out tonight, look for Filip Hronek to take his spot on the top power play unit.
No team in the league has opened the scoring more than the Canucks (14 times and tied with Pittsburgh) who have scored first in four straight and six of seven overall and have found the scoreboard first in eight straight road games.
The Kraken are coming off a 7-1 win over San Jose on Wednesday night. Oliver Bjorkstrand matched the Seattle franchise record with four points (1+3) while Eeli Tolvanen scored twice and added an assist. The Kraken held the Sharks to just 14 shots on goal including only one in the second period.
With his four points on Tuesday, Bjorkstrand has surged into the Kraken scoring lead with 7+12=19. Former Canuck Jared McCann leads the team with nine goals while Jaden Schwartz has eight. Jordan Eberle had 1+2=3 on Saturday against the Canucks and has 2+6=8 on a team-high six game point streak.
After a 1-4-1 stumble from the starting gate this season, the Kraken are 7-4-4 in their last 15 games and 3-0-2 in their last five. Seattle is 4-5-1 in its first 10 home games this season.
Joey D’Accord is expected to get the start in goal for Seattle. He is 3-2-5 on the season with a 2.80 GAA and .902 save percentage. D’Accord came on in relief of the injured Philipp Grubauer on Monday against Calgary and went the distance on Wednesday against San Jose.
The Kraken have played 11 games decided by a single goal and have picked up at least a point in 10 of them (5-1-5). No team has been to overtime more than Seattle this season (8 times). The Kraken are 2-3 in games decided in OT and 1-2 in the shootout.
The Kraken are 2-3-2 in seven games against Pacific Division foes this season with both victories coming in the past week.
Tonight’s referees: Garrett Rank & Chris Schlenker

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on decision to scratch Andrei Kuzmenko: “I think Kuzy needs a reset. I think he needs to get his game a little sharper. When you’re not scoring you’ve got to make sure of your details in your own end. I think he’s thinking too much, but there are some systems stuff that we have to count on – not just him – everybody to be in these positions. So I feel he needs a reset. He needs to work with me a little bit more on the ice. We haven’t had a lot of practice time. More repetition on certain things. An 82-game schedule. It’s Kuzy’s second year – he’s not an eight-year veteran – so we have to give him some rope to learn the game and the way we want to play.”
Tocchet on dip in Elias Pettersson’s play of late: “I think Petey is doing great defensively. He’s not getting the puck enough. And he’ll tell you he has to move his feet more. He’ll tell you he’s got to be better. I still think we can play more of a give and go game with Petey. Give him the puck and get through the middle of the ice, cause some problems and let Petey have some more time. I think sometimes that line is a little too perimeter and we need some more going through the dots play. If you look at the Blueger line, they’ve been really good the last three or four games. Millsy’s line has been good. So I think we need more stuff through the middle of the ice. That will help Petey out.”
Tocchet was asked if Pettersson is playing though any kind of injury: “No, no he’s fine.”

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