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Scenes from practice: Canucks prepare for Panthers by working on breakouts and communication

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Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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The Vancouver Canucks were back to work on Wednesday hours after taking down Tampa Bay 4-1 at Rogers Arena on Tuesday night. On Thursday, the Canucks will look to close out their five game homestand with a victory over the NHL’s other team from the Sunshine State — the Florida Panthers. Prior to that game, the Canucks will add Roberto Luongo to the team’s Ring of Honour.
The Canucks are rolling with three straight victories and wins in four of their past five games. As such, Rick Tocchet doesn’t look to be tinkering with a winning line-up. The team skated in the same line combinations and defensive pairings used in the clinical win over the Lightning. Pius Suter was again involved in practice, but was very much the extra forward suggesting his return to the line-up will have to wait until some point on the club’s upcoming four-game road trip.

What we saw

During drills, Suter worked into a rotation with other members of the fourth line: Nils Aman, Phil Di Giuseppe and Andrei Kuzmenko. When Suter gets the green light to get back into game action, it’s going to be interesting to see who comes out of the line-up to make room. Aman led all Canucks forwards in penalty killing ice time against Tampa on a night the Canucks successfully killed off all three Lightning power plays. Di Giuseppe was fourth among fowards in short-handed ice time. Suter, for his part, is a penalty killer, too. So in theory he could replace either one of those players. However, the coaching staff may elect to ease him back into the line-up and may want to keep its current penalty killing duos intact. The other member of that fourth line is Kuzmenko and he scored on Tuesday and is part of the top power play unit. The Canucks could return to a three forward-two defenceman set on the power play as it utilized when Kuzmenko was a healthy scratch for a pair of games lately. But it feels like the Canucks will want to build Kuzmenko’s confidence back up rather than sit him out again.
Thatcher Demko, fresh off his 28 save performance on Tuesday, got in an early on-ice workout with Ian Clark ahead of the group. Practice goalie Roman Basran stepped in and tended the net along with Casey DeSmith during the team portion of practice.
It was interesting to see newcomer Nikita Zadorov receive two doses of individual attention from the coaching staff prior to practice. The big blueliner worked one on one with Sergei Gonchar in the offensive zone for a while. He then moved to the other end of the ice where he spent time getting instruction from Adam Foote.

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on what he stressed at today’s practice: “Looking at our team, when we’re playing well our breakouts are good and that’s something we worked on today. That was a big part of our practice today was our breakouts. And communication. We tend a little bit quieter team, sometimes it’s not comfortable for guys to speak and I think it’s important that you yell things out. I take a page out of the LA Kings. I’ve been watching them lately. They’re obviously a great team. I watched them a couple of games ago and you could actually hear the players. They were in Columbus and I could hear guys screaming ‘heads up’ or ‘wall’ or whatever. That’s the team we want to become where we yell our instructions out. And it’s got to be loud. And I think it really helps the team when we do.”
Tocchet on Canucks inducting Roberto Luongo into the Ring of Honour on Thursday night: “I think anytime you have those ceremonies, I’m big with that. You get to celebrate a guy who was obviously one of the top players in the league and his durability and what he’s done for himself and his team and the league. It’s always nice that guys don’t take that for granted and celebrate a great career.”
Nikita Zadorov on getting individual instruction prior to practice from Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote: “They show me clips to improve every day. I still believe there is a lot of potential in me as a hockey player. I’ve still got things to learn about this team and the systems here. They’ve both been great players and they’re both been really helpful for sure.”

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