The Canucks have officially rounded the halfway point of the 2021-22 season, and Game #42 could mark their biggest one yet; a visit from Connor McDavid and the struggling Edmonton Oilers, with a much coveted sixth place spot in Pacific Division on the line.
It’s truly incredible what a difference the last month and a half has made for both these teams. The Canucks went from dead last in the Pacific to roaring back into the playoff picture, with a brand new head coach and front office to boot. The Oilers went from winning nine of their first ten games of the season to losing 13 of their last 16.
Edmonton does enter tonight coming off a crucial 5-3 win over their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, on Saturday. But the Canucks will be getting back a couple key players from COVID protocol, both sorely missed in their 3-1 loss to the Blues on Sunday; J.T. Miller and Spencer Martin.
Let’s get to the lineup!
After missing the last two games, Miller’s return is a much welcomed one. With so few other options available, Bruce Boudreau has chosen to reunite the old Lotto Line with Miller, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser in an effort to get the Canucks’ offense going again.
Martin’s time in protocol was thankfully brief due to a false positive, especially coming off his incredible 33 save performance on Friday against the Panthers. After Mikey DiPietro stepped in to face the Blues, Martin will get the nod tonight against two of the league’s best shooters in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
But just as Miller returns to give the Canucks some help, Tanner Pearson has apparently taken his place in COVID protocol. Pearson played a pivotal role in Vancouver’s last two games with Miller, Bo Horvat and Conor Garland all missing from the lineup, so Alex Chiasson and Justin Bailey will need to step up in his absence on the right wing.
What Was Said
When asked about his time in protocol J.T. Miller said he feels used to dealing with COVID layoffs now, but that even with so many teammates out his focus remains squarely on winning the next game regardless of circumstance.
“It’s very cliché, but you take it game by game and we have a lot of tough opponents coming up,” Miller said. “It’s going to be hard but I think we’re gonna be excited to embrace the challenge, and I think we totally understand it doesn’t matter who we’re playing on what night, we need two points.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau was able to provide an update on a number of players under protocol, with Jaroslav Halak and Conor Garland slated to return in Winnipeg on Thursday and Bo Horvat expected back against Calgary on Saturday. As for Miller, Boudreau didn’t need to say much about what his absence and subsequent return means for the team.
“He’s our leading point guy, he’s probably our leading spokesman in the room, he’s a really good hockey player,” Boudreau said. “The last two games we played really hard and I thought we played well, but we certainly lacked a bit of scoring and J.T. can provide that.”
Puck drop in Vancouver is slated for 7:00 PM Pacific on Sportsnet.
Our own David Quadrelli teamed up with InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley to preview the matchup tonight: