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Scenes from morning skate: Thatcher Demko looks for 100th win as Canucks visit Blues

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Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (24-10-3) open a season-high seven game road trip tonight when they visit the St. Louis Blues (18-17-1) at Enterprise Center.
It’s the second meeting of the season between these teams with the Canucks blanking the Blues 5-0 on October 27th at Rogers Arena.  These teams will wrap up their season series in Vancouver on January 24th.

What we saw

The Canucks are back at it after a 6-3 home ice win over Ottawa on Tuesday. Elias Pettersson and Pius Suter each scored twice while Ian Cole netted his first goal of the season and JT Miller snapped an eight-game goal drought with what turned out to be the game winner. With the victory, the Canucks improved to 8-1-2 in their last 11 games. Across the league, only Winnipeg at 9-1-2 has a better winning percentage over the last month.
Part of the Canucks success over that stretch is a penalty kill that is operating at 86.7% since December 6th. That is sixth in the league over that span giving up just four goals in 30 opportunities and just one in the last five games.
With Phil Di Giuseppe out indefinitely with a lower body injury the Canucks recalled Linus Karlsson from Abbotsford yesterday. Rick Tocchet didn’t reveal much about his lineup tonight, but did say that Thatcher Demko will start in goal, as the Canucks’ starting netminder is shooting for his 100th NHL victory. With 99, he is currently tied with former teammate Jacob Markstrom for fifth on the franchise’s all-time wins list behind Roberto Luongo (252), Kirk McLean (211), Richard Broduer (126) and Dan Cloutier (109). Demko is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts. 
Canucks team reporter Kate Pettersen tweeted the following lineup notes from St. Louis:
Tonight’s lineup will certainly be interesting to see with PDG out of the equation.
As the Canucks set out on this seven game in 12 nights odyssey, they are 10-6-2 on the road this season and 3-0-2 in their last five away from home. The Canucks last outright loss as the visitor was 4-3 in San Jose on November 25th.
On the season, the Canucks are 7-1-2 against Central Division opponents including their shutout win over the Blues. 
The Blues have yet to play a game in 2024 having been idle since a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh on December 30th. They have dropped back to back games including a 2-1 setback to Colorado a night earlier. Those losses snapped a run of five wins in the previous six games. 
St. Louis fired head coach Craig Berube on December 12th and replaced him with Drew Bannister who is 5-3 behind the bench. The interim coach has rotated goalies Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer over the past six games. If that trend continues, it will be Binnington’s net tonight. Binnington is 11-11-1 on the season with a 3.00 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
While it’s been an uneven season in St. Louis, the Blues have been a decent home ice team with 11 of their 18 wins on the season coming in front of the home fans, including four of their last five.
Robert Thomas leads St. Louis with 15 goals and 39 points. Only three Blues (Thomas along with Pavel Buchnevich and Jake Neighbours) are in double-digits in the goal-scoring department. Neighbours has 12 goals, but just two assists on the season.
The Blues have one of the worst power plays in the NHL sitting 31st at 11.3% striking just five times so far this season with the man-advantage on home ice. Buchnevich leads the team with four goals with the man-advantage. On the other end of the spectrum, St. Louis averages the fewest penalty minutes in the league per game (6.7) and is the only team to be short-handed less than 100 times this season (97). Despite their lack of penalties, the Blues’ nine short-handed goals has them tied for the league lead with Philadelphia and Calgary.
If you’re one for hockey symmetry, the Blues have scored 34 goals in each of the first, second and third periods this season. They also have a pair of overtime goals.

What we heard

Rick Tocchet spoke further about his disappointment in his club’s final 40 minutes of their 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
“When you’re up 5-0, teams sometimes let [their] foot off the gas,” said Tocchet. “I understand some of it, but I think we just got away from our game. You know, our forecheck wasn’t there. When you don’t forecheck and you’re standing around and then they start blowing the zone, that’s when they start taking over the game. If you’re late, then you gotta get out and make sure you’re above people, so I think we were caught in between because of the lead, and then all of a sudden, Ottawa makes a game out of it. It’s a learning lesson for our group — you just got to make sure that you stay in your game for 60 minutes.”
Tocchet didn’t reveal who would be the healthy scratch among the forwards tonight, but stressed that he needed to see a strong forecheck from his forwards tonight.
Tonight’s referees: Dan O’Rourke and Ghislain Hebert

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