After over a month without AHL action at the Abbotsford Centre, the Abbotsford Canucks returned home to play four games in five nights.
The visiting Bakersfield Condors are in town until Monday as the four-game series rolls on into the weekend. The series against the Edmonton Oilers’ farm team kicked off with games on Thursday and Friday.
Let’s get to the scores quickly before diving into three takeaways from the games.
Abbotsford lost 6-2 on Thursday night. Mikey DiPietro got the start and was lit up for six goals on 28 shots. This brought DiPietro’s season save percentage to 0.892%. Not all of the six goals were horribly his fault but there were a few that he needed to have.
The Canucks were in a bad spot with COVID as they even had players returning to the ice on the morning of the game for the first time since before Christmas.
Bakersfield had played three games between Christmas and their Thursday night matchup against the Canucks. They came out on Thursday and took it to the Canucks.
The only highlight from Thursday came off the stick of Sheldon Rempal, who was sent down to the AHL off the taxi squad on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday was tough on the players but Friday might have been even worse.
For the second game of the back-to-back, the Canucks were without Sheldon Dries, Will Lockwood, Jett Woo, Carson Focht and Adam Brubacher due to COVID. They also had their leading scorer on defence, Cam Schilling, terminate his contract and leave the organization for the SHL.
The team was in trouble and even after signing three players to professional tryouts, they were still only able to ice 10 forwards and five defencemen on Friday night.
Spencer Martin got the crease and he was great for the first 59 minutes of the game. He gave up two goals in the final 60 seconds and then allowed the game-clinching goal in the overtime frame to give the Condors a 4-3 win.
The circumstances leading into the Canucks’ first two games back make it hard to critique them too much. They had a rough COVID outbreak over Christmas and New Year’s, they are still dealing with new positive cases, and are currently unable to ice a complete lineup.
We’re going to look at some takeaways from the back-to-back games instead of ripping them for losing 6-2 and then throwing away a 3-1 lead with 60 seconds remaining on a pair of tough nights.
Bailey is back to being a big, speedy scoring winger
You may have forgotten that Justin Bailey had COVID back in training camp and was forced to miss the beginning of camp as he hoped to impress enough to land an NHL job.
On Friday, he impressed.
Bailey flew down the wing while playing aggressively on the penalty kill and made a great pass to his forward partner John Stevens, who buried the Canucks’ first goal of the game.
Bailey praised his PK partner on the play as the two forwards jumped all over a fumbled puck and turned it into offence at the other end of the rink.
“Stevie made a good play to get his stick on the puck there and then it was just a 50-50 play and I was able to come from underneath on it,” said Bailey. “Anytime I can get into a foot race with a defenceman, that’s something that I’m licking my chops for.”
Bailey was all over the ice on Friday and scored on a strong shot from the slot after he knocked a puck down in the slot.
The line of Bailey, John Stevens and Sheldon Rempal played a lot of minutes with the team down to 10 forwards on Friday. The veteran AHLers stepped up and made an impact on both special teams units as well.
Danila Klimovich took a puck in the face, had a bad backcheck and then was benched
Yeah, the heading says a lot there. 18-year-old Danila Klimovich had a busy night until the third period.
As the first period was ticking away, Klimovich took a shot in the face and left the ice.
After returning for the second period, Klimovich received a lot of ice time in the middle frame before he had it all taken away after being lazy while defending in the neutral zone.
Trent Cull was asked in the post-game media if not playing Danila Klimovich in the third period was due to injury or if it was a coaching decision.
“That was a coaching decision, for sure,” said Cull.
It was clear that the play that Klimovich had late in the second period cost him all his minutes in the third period. This was unfortunate as the coach went with three players on professional tryouts instead of the teenager that he is attempting to groom into an NHL player.
You be the judge, was that a bad Cull?
Cull hinted at the return of rookie centre Chase Wouters to the lineup coming soon. We also believe that AHL studs Nic Petan and Jack Rathbone are close to returning to the lineup. The Canucks could use any and all healthy bodies right now.
The Abbotsford Canucks are back in action against the Condors on Sunday at 4 pm and Monday at 7 pm.