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Scenes from morning skate: Kuzmenko returns as Canucks look to take a bite out of Sharks

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (22-9-3) play their final game before a brief holiday break when they host the San Jose Sharks (9-21-3) at Rogers Arena tonight. It’s a battle of first against worst as the Canucks sit atop the NHL points parade with 47 while the Sharks are tied with Chicago for last with 21.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these teams with the Canucks winning the first two while the Sharks prevailed in their most recent match-up.

What we saw

Andrei Kuzmenko returns to the Canucks line-up after back to back healthy scratches in Nashville and Dallas. More than that, he goes back to the wing with Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev and he will be back on the team’s top power play unit. Kuzmenko has scored in back to back games at Rogers Arena after finding the back of the net against Tampa Bay and Florida earlier this month. To make room for Kuzmenko, Phil Di Giuseppe comes out of the line-up while Pius Suter drops to the middle on the fourth line between Sam Lafferty and Nils Aman.
Thatcher Demko gets the start in goal. The San Diego native is 10-0 lifetime against the Sharks with a 1.99 GAA and a .932 save percentage.
The Canucks came up a goal short in Dallas on Thursday falling 4-3 in overtime. Conor Garland scored his first goal in 19 games and also set up linemate Dakota Joshua. Those two and Teddy Blueger each had two point nights against the Stars. That trio has combined for nine goals in the team’s last nine games. Blueger is on a career-best five game point streak (2+4=6).
Brock Boeser scored his 24th goal of the season on Thursday and looks to add to his total tonight. Boeser was stuck on five goals at Christmas last season.
While the goals have flowed for The Flow, they have dried up for a couple of other Canucks. JT Miller has gone six games without a goal and has just one in his last eight outings while Quinn Hughes has gone nine without scoring and has just one goal in his last 15 games. 
Hughes, however, has feasted on the Sharks in his career with 6+13=19 in 14 games against San Jose including 2+6=8 in the three games this season. That included a career-best 1+4=5 in a 10-1 win on November 2nd.
The Canucks are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and 6-0-2 in their last eight despite a power play that has gone ice cold. It went 0/3 in Dallas and failed to generate a shot on goal in 4:55 with the man advantage. Through 17 games, the Canucks power play was 22 for 66 (33.3%). In the 17 games since, it is just seven for 54 (13.0%)
The Sharks arrive in town following a 5-2 loss to Arizona on Thursday. Anthony Duclair and Filip Zadina scored the San Jose goals. The Sharks have lost four straight and are 1-4-1 in their last six games. 
San Jose is the lowest scoring team in the league (2.09 goals/game) while also surrendering the most goals on average (3.94/game). In their last five games, the Sharks have been outscored 17-7. Tomas Hertl leads the team in goals (11) and points (26).
The Sharks line-up features three former Canucks in Kyle Burroughs, Justin Bailey and Jack Studnicka who has appeared in three games since being acquired from Vancouver in a December 15th trade. 
San Jose has not beaten the same opponent twice yet this season. The Sharks are 3-11-1 on the road this season with only one of those victories coming in regulation time. They have yet to beat a Western Conference opponent at the visitor.
Special teams on both sides have been active in the first three games of this season series. The Canucks are 6/12 (50%) on the power play in three games against San Jose while the Sharks are 3/7 (42.9%) with the man advantage against Vancouver. The Canucks also got a short-handed goal from Sam Lafferty in a 3-1 win on November 20th.
Tonight’s referees: Steve Kozari & Graham Skilliter

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on what he wants to see from Andrei Kuzmenko tonight: “We worked with him in Dallas on some stuff on his game. And he’s got some juice. We’ve got to get him to shoot the puck in attack mode. I think that’s the thing for me tonight: attack the net, attack the play, attack the forecheck. Be the first guy in there. And I think he’s going to do that tonight.”
Brock Boeser on need for team focus in the final game before Christmas: “It’s been a grind, the schedule has been pretty crazy, we’re a little tired so we have to make sure we give it our all tonight and leave it all out there. Then we can rest (after the break).”
Teddy Blueger on being part of the hottest line in hockey: “Ha. I wouldn’t say that. There’s definitely way hotter guys out there. We’ve obviously been able to get a few goals here and there which is nice. It’s a good feeling. You always want to contribute. For us, it’s the same thing — good or bad — and not get carried away, continue to work and get better.”

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