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Scenes from morning skate: Pius Suter returns as Canucks honour Roberto Luongo

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 months ago
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It’s Roberto Luongo’s Ring of Honour night as the Vancouver Canucks (19-9-1) host the Florida Panthers (17-9-2). The Canucks will celebrate the remarkable career of the Hall of Fame netminder who played 448 games and won a franchise-record 252 games over parts of eight seasons in Vancouver from 2006 through 2014.
It’s also the return of Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Rogers Arena after the veteran defenceman was bought out of the final four years of his contract by the Canucks in June. The game marks the end of a five-game homestand for the Canucks who have won three straight and four of their last five outings. Tonight the Canucks shoot for their 20th win of the season in their 30th game.

What we saw

The Canucks held a well-attended optional morning skate. Pius Suter was a full participant, and afterwards, Rick Tocchet confirmed the Swiss centre will return to the lineup for the first time since November 12th in Montreal. Suter missed 14 games with a groin injury. Tonight will mark just the second time all season the Canucks have both Pius Suter and Teddy Blueger in the line-up together. To make room for Suter, Nils Aman will be a healthy scratch.
Players aren’t the only ones that have to play through nagging injuries over the course of a long season. Tocchet conducted his media availability in workout gear revealing a sizeable ice pack on one of his knees. He joked it was merely a lower body injury and he’d be fine to coach this evening.
On a night to celebrate goaltending in this market, Thatcher Demko will make his second straight start. He made 27 saves in a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
After his second hattrick of the season on Tuesday, Brock Boeser now has eight goals in his last eight games and has 8+5=13 on an eight-game point streak. With a point tonight, Boeser will match his career-high for consecutive games finding the scoresheet. He has twice recorded nine-game streaks. Quinn Hughes had three primary assists against the Lightning. It was his fifth game this season with three (or more) assists and his ninth multi-point contest.
Florida is here after a 4-0 loss in Seattle on Tuesday. It was the team’s third shutout defeat of the season. That snapped the Panthers three game win streak. Overall, last season’s Stanley Cup finalists are 5-2-1 in their last eight games. 
West Vancouver’s Sam Reinhart is on pace for a career season with a team-leading 17 goals in 28 games. Reinhart is tied for fourth in the league in goals and T-8 in points with 37. In his career, he has 11 goals in 15 games against the Canucks.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has had a resurgent season in South Florida. The 32-year-old has seven goals and 14 points while averaging 20:46 of ice time per night. OEL had two goals and 22 points and was -24 in 54 games with the Canucks last season.
Both of these teams are proving to be strong front runners this season. The Canucks are 15-4 when opening the scoring and 16-0 when leading after 40 minutes. Meanwhile, the Panthers are 11-0-2 when hitting the scoreboard first and 12-0-1 when taking a lead to the third period.
The Canucks defeated the Panthers 5-3 in Sunrise, FL on October 21st. Andrei Kuzmenko scored a late third period goal to break a 3-3 tie after the Cats had erased a 3-1 deficit.
Tonight’s referees are Chris Schlenker and Brandon Blandina

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on getting Suter back and having a full complement of healthy forwards: “well it’s good for coaches, but it also sucks because sometimes you pull a guy that isn’t necessarily playing bad. You know, Åms and his penalty killing was starting to come. He and Teddy (Blueger) were doing a nice job. Now he gets pulled out because we have a guy that probably fits better. But that doesn’t mean that Nils won’t be back in. So it’s good. Internal competition is good. That’s what good teams have and it puts people on guard. But it also sucks because you have to pull a guy out. You have to go through the gamut with the player and try to be as honest as possible.”
Tocchet on keeping the Cats under control tonight: “Well, Florida is one of the teams I really love watching. If you look around the league when it comes to identity, they play to their identity. They play fast, they pressure you, they’re tough — they’ve got all the elements. They have certain players that drag them into the fight. This is a big test for us.”
Noah Juulsen, an Abbotsford native who grew up watching Roberto Luongo, on being part of the celebration tonight: “Growing up, he was the man to many kids in the area. Everyone looked up to him and everyone loved Lu and everything he did for the city. It’s pretty cool. It’s a big night for him and obviously it’s a big night for us. That’s a great hockey team. We want to show support to Lu for all he did for the team, but there’s still two points on the line for us.”

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