One of the many positives about Bruce Boudreau coaching the Vancouver Canucks is that he’s fairly transparent with his line combinations.
Every NHL coach will tell fans and media not to read too much into practice lines, but when Boudreau told reporters ahead of training camp that he’d be trying to put together lines he could see together on opening night, all bets were off.
The storylines from Whistler began immediately. Where was Nils Höglander — who despite impressing during camp — was skating on a line with two AHLers going to end up playing?
That was certainly the biggest one, but it appears to have been answered rather quickly, because on Sunday night, the Canucks lost the newly-signed Ilya Mikheyev during the second period of the club’s home split-squad game against the Calgary Flames.
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Then on Monday, the Canucks announced that forward Brock Boeser underwent successful hand surgery and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks while recovering.

Line Rushes

Mikheyev wasn’t at Canucks practice out at UBC yesterday, and is considered week-to-week with a lower body injury, per Bruce Boudreau. That means that we got some new lines, and here they are:
Tanner Pearson – J.T.Miller – Conor Garland
Vasily Podkolzin – Bo Horvat – Curtis Lazar
Andrey Kuzmenko – Elias Pettersson – Nils Höglander
Dakota Joshua – Jason Dickinson – Phil Di Giuseppe
Extras: Nils Åman, Linus Karlsson 
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Quinn Hughes
Danny DeKeyser – Tucker Poolman
Travis Dermott – Kyle Burroughs
Jack Rathbone – Luke Schenn
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Notes about these lines:

  • As we reported earlier, Travis Dermott left practice with an apparent injury yesterday. Nothing too out of the ordinary appeared to happen to him, but it was clear that he was in obvious discomfort. Dermott skated to the bench on his own, but needed to be helped to the room. Boudreau informed reporters that Dermott said he was feeling a little woozy after taking a hit, and that the club exercised caution and told Dermott to go home.
  • Tyler Myers and Ilya Mikheyev weren’t at practice yesterday. Mikheyev is week to week, according to Bruce Boudreau. Myers is simply out with a minor illness and could be back as soon as tomorrow.
  • Phil Di Giuseppe has clearly made a positive impression on the Canucks’ coaching staff, as he got a turn to fill in on the fourth line as he continues his audition for one of the final roster spots in Vancouver.
  • BC-born Curtis Lazar moved up from the fourth line to Bo Horvat’s wing in the absence of Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev, as Conor Garland — who would normally be on that line — jumped up to the top line to skate alongside Tanner Pearson and J.T. Miller.
  • Nils Höglander took line rushes alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrey Kuzmenko, and his linemates through preseason — Linus Karlsson and Nils Åman — also got the chance to skate with the main group yesterday. That trio of Höglander, Åman, and Karlsson was one of very few bright spots in the Canucks’ Sunday night loss in Calgary.

Power Play Units

As was expected, the Canucks’ power play units also got a bit of a shakeup as a result of Brock Boeser’s injury. Here’s how the Canucks lined up yesterday:
First unit: Kuzmenko
Miller-Horvat-Pettersson
Hughes
Second unit: Garland
Pearson-Höglander-Rathbone
Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Notes about these units: 

  • Unsurprisingly, Andrey Kuzmenko fills in at Boeser’s spot behind the net and at net front on PP1. Kuzmenko played this role on Sunday during the Canucks’ loss at home against Calgary, and had a couple of nice feeds to Bo Horvat in the bumper position, as well as some solid power moves to the net. Kuzmenko is quite skilled in tight with the puck on his stick, so it will be interesting to see how he settles into that role.
  • Right now, the Canucks are electing to go with two defencemen on their second unit. Jack Rathbone lined up on the half wall on his off side, meaning he’ll be an offensive threat to either shoot or pass without much effort anytime he has the puck on his stick.
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson is back manning the point on the second unit. Like Rathbone, he’s got a bomb of a shot and seems to have an innate ability to get his shots through traffic.
The Canucks had two practices yesterday, but the early group is clearly the one to pay attention to, as it most closely resembles what the club’s NHL lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow.
Thankfully for the Canucks — and for Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev — the season doesn’t start until October 12th.
In the meantime, the Canucks will play in five more preseason games, the next of which comes Thursday evening when they will take on the Seattle Kraken at home. Puck drop is at 6:30 PM.