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Scenes from a playoff practice: Lafferty bumped up to Pettersson’s wing as Canucks tweak lineup ahead of Game 1 against Predators

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 days ago
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The Vancouver Canucks put their finishing touches on playoff preparation with a 45 minute practice at Rogers Arena during the noon hour on Saturday.
All available bodies were present and accounted for and Rick Tocchet likely tipped his hand on the way he’ll deploy his players in Sunday’s first round opener against Nashville.

What we saw

The most notable adjustment saw Sam Lafferty moved to right wing on a line with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander while Phil Di Giuseppe appears to have earned a look in the series opener as he skated on a fourth line with Teddy Blueger and Ilya Mikheyev.
The coach suggested Lafferty’s size and speed made him the right fit to start the series with Pettersson. Tocchet wouldn’t confirm that Di Giuseppe will play ahead of Vasily Podkolzin, but noted that the coaching staff had discussed the role experience plays in a playoff opener which may explain the decision to give Di Giuseppe the first look.
Based on Saturday’s skate, Podkolzin and Nils Aman appear to be the extra forwards to start the series.
There were no surprises among the defence pairs with the Canucks expected to open the post-season with Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek as the lead duo while Carson Soucy and Tyler Myers will slot in together as will Nikita Zadorov and Ian Cole. 
The Canucks finished practice with a few quick power play drills. There is no change to the first unit with captain Quinn Hughes in his usual spot while JT Miller and Conor Garland set up on the half-walls with Brock Boeser in the bumper and Elias Pettersson at the net front.
The second unit features a two defencemen-three forward look with Filip Hronek and Carson Soucy at the points, Nils Höglander in the bumper, Dakota Joshua in front and Elias Lindholm on his off wing.
The Canucks have Sergei Gonchar in town to open the playoffs which meant they had eight coaches on the ice for Saturday’s practice. 
There wasn’t much of a playoff feel to Rogers Arena some 30 hours ahead of the playoff puck drop. Towels are expected to be laid out on the seats for fans in attendance on Sunday, but there was no sign of that on Saturday.. There were also no on-ice logos to indicate the switch to the second season nor any kind of signage in the arena bowl. Canucks players were wearing team-issued playoff apparel to do post-practice media interviews and Rick Tocchet stood in front of a Stanley Cup Playoff back drop when he met the media. 
The Canucks are expected to have an optional morning skate on Sunday ahead of the 7pm face-off of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs some nine years since the last post-season game was played in Vancouver.

What was heard

Rick Tocchet on expecting a raucous first five minutes of Sunday’s opener: “You’ve got to embrace the pain. There is going to be pain and you’ve got to love it. I’m being serious. You’ve got to crave that walk to the bus when you’re tired or you’re limping or you’ve got a cut. That should be something you crave. Don’t be afraid of it. These guys have watched playoff hockey. They’ve seen this year when there have been some heavy pressure games and some buildings we’ve gone into, so they’ve got a little taste. Obviously it’s ramped up. It’s at a different level. You can’t shy away from it and you’ve got to play uncomfortable.”
Tocchet on moving Lafferty to Pettersson’s wing for the opener: “There’s two or three guys that might get moved around. Sam’s a heavy forechecking guy. I think he can jump on some loose pucks. We’ll see how it goes, if he’s there tomorrow night.”
Tocchet on Di Giuseppe over Podkolzin: “You do a round table and get your coaches thoughts. Who checks what box and things like that? Sometimes in first games, you might go with experience. Gut feeling. If Di Giuseppe plays, I thought he played good against Nashville. I think he scored a goal. But experience does help.”
Quinn Hughes prepared for Preds to game plan against him: “I feel like I’ve had attention like that for a little bit, but it’ll probably spike a little bit in the playoffs. I feel like my game is in a really good spot. I’ve been building the last two or three years and my mentality is in a really good spot. I had a great season and I just have to keep going.”
Elias Pettersson on finally playing a playoff game in front of home fans: “It’s been a long time coming. But I’m really excited to be here. I’ve heard all the stories about it and seen clips from the 2011 Cup run. I guess we’ll see tomorrow, but I’m very excited.”
JT Miller on negating the Predators speed and desire to create off the rush: “If we play the right way, there shouldn’t be a whole lot of tracking against their rush. Even in the offensive zone, if you give them possession that’s where they’ll kill you starting at their own hash marks. The neutral zone is kind of elongated. You have to make sure you really take care of it. You can’t just give them the puck, because they’re coming back four abreast all the time. This is where I just want to worry about ourselves. I’m not worried about their rush game. If we take care of the puck and make them play tired, they don’t have a rush game.”
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