Scenes from morning skate: Soucy skates, DeSmith over Demko when Canucks host Philadelphia Flyers

Photo credit:John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 months ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (23-9-3) close out the 2023 portion of their National Hockey League schedule when they host the Philadelphia Flyers (18-11-4) at Rogers Arena. It’s a battle of two teams that have both suffered just one regulation loss in their last 11 games. 

What we saw

Carson Soucy joined the Canucks for this morning’s skate. It was his first time skating with the group since suffering a lower leg injury in Montreal on November 12th. He will not play tonight, but is getting closer to a return and could be a possibility for the Canucks next game against Ottawa on January 2nd.
Casey DeSmith gets the start in goal tonight. It’s his first game action since a 5-2 win in Nashville on December 19th. DeSmith is 2-0-1 in his last three starts, giving up just three goals on 85 shots in that span. On the season, he is 6-2-2 with a 2.44 GAA, a .923 save percentage and a shutout. The Canucks will go with the same 18 skaters in front of DeSmith that they used in their last game a 7-4 victory over San Jose on December 23rd.
The Canucks have won five straight games at Rogers Arena as part of a 13-3-1 record on home ice. In the win over the Sharks, Andrei Kuzmenko gave the Canucks a 2-0 first period lead with his seventh and eighth goals of the season. The Russian winger has now scored in three straight home games. Dakota Joshua scored for a second straight game. His line with Conor Garland and Teddy Blueger has combined for 10+18=28 in the past 10 games. 
Nils Aman also cashed in against the Sharks and has now scored in two of his last three games after going his first 10 games this season without finding the back of the net. Captain Quinn Hughes sealed the deal into an empty net scoring his 10th goal of the season, giving the Canucks six players in double-digits in the goal-scoring department (Boeser, Miller, Pettersson, Hoglander, Mikheyev and now Hughes). 
As a team, the Canucks are 7-0-2 in their last nine games and 8-1-2 in their last 11, which took them to the top of the NHL standings at the Christmas break. This is the club’s second nine-game point streak this season (the Canucks went 8-0-1 from October 21st to November 9th)
JT Miller continues to lead the Canucks in scoring and is third in the NHL point parade with 15+33=48, yet the veteran centre has gone seven games without scoring and has just one goal in his last nine games and only two in his last 15. However, he has 18 points (2+16) in those 15 outings.
Defenceman Nikita Zadorov is playing in the 600th game of his NHL career. He made his NHL debut as an 18-year-old on October 19, 2013 with Buffalo at home against Colorado Fun fact: also in the Sabres line-up that night was Tyler Myers and former Canucks Cody Hodgson, Christian Erhhoff, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller.
Philadelphia arrives in town for its first game since a wild 7-6 shootout loss in Detroit on December 22nd. The Flyers trailed 5-1 after the first period but rallied to take a 6-5 lead, only to see the Red Wings force overtime with a late equalizer before the game was settled in a skills competition. With the single point, the Flyers are 7-1-3 in their last 11 games overall, and since November 8th, the Flyers have had the best point percentage in the NHL, going 13-4-3 (.725) in their last 20 games. On top of that, Philadelphia is one of the top road teams in the league this season, boasting a record of 10-4-3 away from home.
Travis Konecny leads all Flyers skaters with 16 goals and 27 points. He was one of 14 Flyer skaters to hit the scoresheet in the team’s last game. 
John Tortorella’s Flyers have been one of the NHL’s good news stories this season despite the worst power play in the league. Philly has just 11 goals in 104 opportunities (10.6%). However, that is only part of the story. The Flyers’ road power play is sputtering at 4.8% with only two goals in 17 games as the visitors and just one since their second road game of the season. With the Flyers next win, Torts will move into solo 10th in all time NHL coaching victories. He is currently tied with former Canucks and Flyers coach Alain Vigneault with 722 wins.
Carter Hart has had a strong season in goal for the Flyers, posting a 9-6-2 record with a 2.62 GAA and a .913 save percentage. His lone shutout of the season was a 25-save effort against the Canucks in a 2-0 win on October 17th. Hart started the last game before Christmas, however, Samuel Ersson had the net in the five games before that and will get the start tonight. Ersson is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts, with a pair of shutouts.
Tonight’s referees: Pierre Lambert & Chris Lee

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on going with Casey DeSmith in goal tonight: “He’s been competitive every start he’s had for us. He’s done it before where he’s had inactivity. We don’t like to give him too much inactivity, but I think there was that one stretch were he didn’t play in two weeks and he had a really good game. I think it’s important we play a little long game here and get him in the line-up. And he gives us a chance to win every night.”
Quinn Hughes on returning to game action for first time since December 23rd: “I think we were playing really good hockey up until the break. I’m sure every team was looking forward to the break and it’s always nice to spend it with family and friends. But it’s a quick break and we’re ready to get back at it tonight.”
Elias Pettersson on 2-0 loss to the Flyers in Canucks third game of the season: “I mean I guess you can look back at it and want to play better against them. Obviously you learn from those games and you don’t want to do that again. I don’t think we think about that game, but I guess it’s in the back of your head.”


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