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With the Christmas break just a couple of days away, the Vancouver Canucks play their first of a back-to-back before getting a few days off to spend some time away from the rink.
For their opponent, the Seattle Kraken, this is their final game before the break and they are coming into the game riding a two-game winning streak.
A two-game winning streak against the same two teams who just came through Vancouver and beat the Canucks by matching scores of 5-1.
The Kraken took care of the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, with a 3-2 regulation win where they only allowed 17 shots against. Then, they followed that win up with a commanding 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night — a game where they only allowed 24 shots on net. There’s a theme here, as the Kraken are the third-best team in the league when it comes to five-on-five shot suppression, allowing only 25.99 shots per 60 minutes.
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On the other end of the spectrum, the Canucks are fourth-worst in the NHL when it comes to allowing shots at five-on-five, as they give up 32.37 shots against per 60 minutes at five-on-five.
Speaking of five-on-five play, the Canucks will have to keep their eye on former Canuck Jared McCann. The speedy winger is tied for second in the league when it comes to five-on-five goals (13) and is riding a hot hand on the season with a 30.23% shooting percentage at five-on-five. McCann is projected to play on a line with impressive rookie Matthew Beniers, and now-veteran Jordan Eberle.
As for the Canucks, we had some good news from the morning skate as Elias Pettersson returned to the ice and some interesting news as Ethan Bear looks to be a healthy scratch.
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Let’s get into what we saw at the Canucks’ morning skate.

What we saw

Why don’t we kick things off with the line combinations and defence pairings, and work our way through them?
There are quite a few changes with Pettersson back in the mix. It looks like the Canucks will go with Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller and Pettersson down the middle.
It’s not for sure that Pettersson will be in the lineup as head coach Bruce Boudreau called him a game-time decision in the post-skate media availability — which we will get to in what was said.
The other big notable story from these lines and pairings is that Ethan Bear appears to be the odd man out of the defence corps. He was seen on the ice after practice with Collin Delia and Jack Studnicka — which is usually an indication that those players will not be in the lineup tonight.
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Bear has been one of the better puck-moving defencemen for the Canucks since he was acquired in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes. A healthy scratch is certainly surprising from our point of view. With back-to-backs, maybe this is just the night for him to sit out and he will return to the lineup tomorrow, but after a pair of losses where Oliver Ekman-Larsson looked slowfooted, you’d have to think that him being sat down for a game soon isn’t the worst thing this team could do for their defence.
We will see if this is indeed the case tonight and be sure to ask Bruce Boudreau for his reasoning if Bear is indeed a healthy scratch.
Playing on Pettersson’s wings at morning skate were Andrei Kuzmenko and Lane Pederson.
Dakota Joshua will get another shot in the top-six as he looks like he will skate with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser.
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Spencer Martin was the first goalie off the ice and is your projected starter for tonight’s game.
Let’s break down some of these decisions and hear some fun tidbits in the quotes from the locker room.

SCENES FROM MORNING SKATE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

What was said

Bruce Boudreau commented on having Pettersson back on the ice.
“It’ll be a game-time decision on him tonight but I’m glad to see that he’s finally gotten healthy,” said Boudreau. “Anytime he can join the group it makes us a better group. He’s our leading scorer and he leads in a lot of categories. He’s penalty killing and [on] the power play. You can see the difference with him not being there and being there so he [makes] a big difference. You take [Nathan] MacKinnon out of Colorado’s lineup, no matter how good that lineup is, it’s not doing as well. You take [Connor] McDavid out, and I can go down the list here. This is a league based on better players. So we’re glad to have him potentially back for tonight but for sure tomorrow night. It gets your team a little bit more complete.”
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The coach also commented on going back to Horvat, Miller and Pettersson as their top-nine centres.
“If you had your druthers, those three centermen would make you as good up the middle as most teams in the National Hockey League, but it sort of weakens your wingers,” said Boudreau. “We have to do what we can do to field the best team and put them in the best positions to succeed. So if that’s the case, then we’ll do it but if we have to load up two lines, then we’ll do that as well.”
Elias Pettersson commented on how he was feeling being back with the team at practice.
“I feel better, it’s been some days just laying around at home trying to feel better,” said Pettersson. “I just want to be out there, it’s very frustrating to not be there. It’s good to see the guys again and obviously be on the ice but just be around the guys and play hockey again.”
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We asked Pettersson about Sweden at the World Juniors and if he’s rooting extra for Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson.
“I will be rooting a little bit more for him,” said Pettersson with a smile. “I’m going to try to watch a few games and see how they do.”
Pettersson was then asked if Elias Pettersson is his favourite player at the World Juniors.
“Yeah, him and [Jonathan] Lekkerimäki,” said Pettersson.
The Canucks battle the Kraken with the broadcast beginning at 7:00 local time. The Canucks beat the Kraken 5-4 on October 27th in Seattle and hold a 5-0-0 record against the Kraken in regular season play since the Kraken came into the league.