Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Scenes from morning skate: Surprise start for Demko, Juulsen draws back in against banged-up Blackhawks
30 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks (31-11-4) will shoot for their third straight victory when they host the Chicago Blackhawks (14-30-2) tonight at Rogers Arena.
This was supposed to be rookie phenom Connor Bedard’s first NHL visit to his hometown, however that won’t be the case with the North Vancouver native sidelined with a broken jaw. That puts the focus back on the Canucks, who will try to build on victories over Arizona and Toronto as they reach the midway mark of this five-game homestand.
What we saw
Carson Soucy will miss five to six weeks after blocking a shot with his hand on Saturday against Toronto. So Noah Juulsen will draw back into the line-up tonight. The Canucks will also split Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek on the blueline as Hughes skated with Tyler Myers this morning while Hronek had Nikita Zadorov as his partner.
Perhaps surprisingly given the opponent, Thatcher Demko gets his third straight start in goal. He faced a season-high 46 shots on Saturday. Demko has won six straight decisions and is 12-1-1 in his last 14 starts with a 2.49 GAA, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts over that stretch.
Nils Höglander’s second goal of the game on Saturday against the Leafs established a career-high with 14 on the season. All of them have come at even-strength. Conor Garland also scored twice and now has five goals in his last nine games.
Elias Pettersson has scored a power play goal in three straight outings. He has goals in eight of his last 10 games and a total of 12 goals over that stretch. On December 11th, Pettersson had 11 goals while Brock Boeser had a team-high 22. Pettersson now has 25 goals and is within two of Boeser for the team lead. Pettersson also has nine power play goals on the season, which is one of his career best achieved on two previous occasions.
JT Miller scored the winning goal on Saturday. He enters play tonight with 599 career NHL points (222+377=599). He has 362 points with the Canucks, had 172 as a New York Ranger and produced 65 in Tampa Bay.
Saturday was the first time since a November 25th game in San Jose the Canucks have scored multiple power play goals in a game. The power play has scuffled for a while now, but is showing signs of life going 5/16 (31.3%) over the past five games.
The Canucks are 15-2-3 in their last 20 games and are 8-1 in their last nine on home ice.
The Blackhawks are here following a 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders on Friday, Seth Jones scored his first goal of the season 22 seconds into OT to give the Hawks the victory. Former Canuck Jason Dickinson had a goal and two assists. Dickinson, who had never reached double-digits in goals in his NHL career prior to this season, now shares the team lead with the injured Bedard with 15.
With Bedard on the shelf, Dickinson is the Hawks leading scorer with 24 points. Besides Dickinson, Philip Kurashev with 23 is the only other active Chicago skater with more than 17 points on the season.
Chicago’s injury list is a sight to behold: Connor Bedard, Connor Murphy, Tyler Johnson, Anthony Beauvillier, Taylor Hall, Nikita Zaitsev and Andreas Athanasiou are all on the shelf. Although Nick Foligno is expected to return tonight after missing seven games with a hand injury.
The Hawks are 31st in the NHL in offence (2.22 goals/game) and 29th on defence (3.57 goals/game). They have the 32nd ranked power play (12.6%) and are dead last in face-off prowess at 44.8% on the season. The Hawks are 4-10-1 in their last 15 games although just one of those victories has come in regulation time. Despite their offensive woes this season, the Hawks are a surprising 4-1 in games decided in overtime.
Chicago is 4-19-1 on the road this season having been outscored 101-48. They are 0-15-1 in their last 16 games as the visitor dating back to a 5-3 win in Tampa Bay on November 9th. They have scored 27 goals and surrendered 74 over that span. Tonight is the first game of a four-game swing through the Pacific Northwest and Alberta.
Through the team’s many struggles, Petr Mrazek has provided Chicago with credible netminding recording 12 of the team’s 14 wins on the season while posting a 3.04 GAA and .906 save percentage with a shutout.
The Canucks beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in Chicago on December 17th. They will meet one more time at United Center on February 13th in the final game of the Canucks five-game road trip out of the All Star break.
Tonight’s referees: Corey Syvret & Francis Charron
What we heard
Rick Tocchet on Carson Soucy’s injury: “It’s a tough break for him. He just can’t catch a break. But what I love about Noah (Juulsen) is he’s ready to go. He works hard in practice and that’s why it’s important to have character guys like that. He’ll be ready and he’s played well for us.”
Noah Juulsen on returning to the lineup after five straight healthy scratches: “It’s really exciting. It’s been a little bit now, but I’m excited to go and excited to play tonight. It’s an opportunity for sure. The last time was the same thing. I took the opportunity and ran with it and I think I just have to do the same thing again.”
Rick Tocchet on not looking past the Hawks: “I would be more concerned if we didn’t have the second period we did against the Leafs. Maybe a little too cocky (letting 3-0 lead get away). I think we got a little humble pie with that second period against Toronto and that gives us our antennas up.”
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