Five points of interest ahead of puck-drop.
1. The injuries suffered to members of the Canucks this season have certainly taken a toll on the hockey team. While there have been few excuses and in fact, rallying moments by those remaining in the lineup, there comes a point in time when it may be too much to come back from. Vancouver have already played eight games without the top pair of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev this year, 11 games missing their second pair of both Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson, add to that Dorsett and Rodin have played a total of 17 games, combined. Gudbranson is still on the sidelines. Sven Baertschi was hurt in Nashville and will miss his fifth game tonight due to a concussion. Then Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat miss the game in Pittsburgh. So, is this it? Is this the final straw? Not so fast. The Canucks play three games before they take the mandated NHLPA break. It sounds like Sutter and Horvat will be able to play before that. It could be the best timed break of any NHL team this season.
2. Horvat took a puck off his left foot, while blocking a Jack Eichel shot late in the game in Buffalo. Horvat addressed the media in St. Louis this morning, after participating in the morning skate. He was thankful to be wearing shot blockers at the time, suggesting his foot “would have probably been shattered” if not for the plastic covers. Horvat said the test will be pushing off without too much pain. If he can tolerate it, he will play. The Canucks leading goal scorer was positioned as the net front presence on the second power-play unit this morning, leaving many to suggest that could be a good sign.
3. Brandon Sutter is also a game time decision tonight. The veteran centre appeared to injury his wrist against the Sabres and also sat out in Pittsburgh. Last season Sutter was limited to only 20 games due to a pair of major injuries. This morning Sutter explained he believes he can push himself until the break and that he is day-to-day. Despite taking the morning skate in Pittsburgh, the birthday boy did not feel well enough to play on the first day of his 28th year.
4. The key statistical area, outside of goals and assists, in which the Canucks missed Sutter and Horvat the most was faceoffs. Brandon Sutter has been on the dot for over 1,000 draws this season and Bo Horvat is not far behind, at 974. The rhythm and repetition built up during that time frame is not easily attained or repeated. While Brendan Gaunce led the way with a better than fifty percent success rate in Pittsburgh, it became clear how tough it is to pick up the slack. Jayson Megna (who replaced Sutter on that line) was 1-for-11 and Henrik Sedin, tasked with 22 faceoffs, had only 10 wins. While Granlund and Chaput also provide other options down the middle, the “by committee” approach still does not even out to what Sutter and Horvat provide in the circles.
5. The Blues have caught fire under new head coach Mike Yeo. The club is 6-1 during that stretch and recently completed a five game road trip with five straight victories, for the first time in franchise history. During that five game stretch, the Blues held their opponents to three goals total. Collectively, St. Louis has not allowed a power-play goal against since the coaching change. The Blues lost the first meeting of the season between these teams in Vancouver, 2-1 in overtime.
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