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Scenes from practice: Canucks shake up line combos; Garland latest to get a turn with Pettersson

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
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After back to back losses and a couple of instances where he didn’t like the way his hockey club handled adversity, Rick Tocchet tried to get his team’s attention by rolling out a few new looks at Vancouver Canucks practice on Monday.

What we saw

In an effort to help Elias Pettersson get back on top of his game a month before the Stanley Cup playoffs, Conor Garland was added to his right side on a line that also includes Nils Höglander. That gives Pettersson a pair of high-energy wingers who are expected to get in on the forecheck and hopefully win puck battles. That may increase the offensive zone time for Pettersson, giving him more opportunities to create chances when he has the puck on his stick.
With Garland moving up the line-up, Ilya Mikheyev and Pius Suter were both shuffled to other lines. Suter returned to left wing with JT Miller and Brock Boeser while Mikheyev was moved to the left side with Elias Lindholm and Sam Lafferty.
Based on Monday’s skate, Nils Aman is likely to draw back into the line-up in place of Phil Di Giuseppe. Aman skated with Teddy Blueger and Vasily Podkolzin. While Podkolzin has not looked out of place in his return to the NHL, he hasn’t been able to produce any points in his six games so far this season. By moving him to the fourth line, it takes some of the pressure off by allowing the young Russian to focus more on the physical side of his game.
The changes weren’t limited to the forward group. One game after getting Tyler Myers back from injury, the Canucks reconfigured their bottom two pairings. Myers practiced with Ian Cole while Nikita Zadorov moved to the right side playing with Carson Soucy.
The Canucks skated for about 40 minutes and wore their black gear in anticipation of a return to the black skate jersey for Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Injured netminder Thatcher Demko was an observer some of the early drills watching practice from the Canucks bench in workout gear.

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on a few new looks at practice: “Just get some energy from certain guys. It was a really good practice today, so hopefully that energizes some people. It’s a long season, every once in a while it gives guys juice when you put different people together. And it creates urgency. Players know ‘hey, they’re switching lines, I better get my game together.’”
Tocchet on team dropping back to back games after four game win streak: “We can preach the negative and yeah we’re pissed, but at the end of the day the large sample size is we’ve done it (had success). Yeah, the heat is a little hotter now, we get it, but it’s the same thing. Everybody has to up their game a little bit, find another level.”
Tocchet on the coaching staff using all of its big game experience to help players that haven’t experienced an NHL stretch drive and playoffs: “You’re in a plane and the cockpit door is open and during turbulence, you see the pilot biting his nails and sweating, what are you going to do? I can’t be biting my nails and being pissed off. I’ve got to be calm. You’ve got the twins, you’ve got Adam Foote, Gonch when he’s here, Mike Yeo has been in the league 25 years, I’ve been around the block. We have to use that calmness where we’re not panicking.”
Elias Pettersson on playing with Conor Garland: “He brings a lot of playmaking, he makes good passes. I don’t mind (the change). Maybe our line hasn’t performed that well, so it’s just good to try fresh looks.”
Conor Garland on new look line: “I’ve played with Petey in the past. Very exciting player to play with. Hoggy is the best. Just does everything. So I’m looking forward to it. He’s a fun guy to be around and play with. We’re both excited. So just come in and play with a bunch of energy tomorrow.”
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