Hughes helps Canucks power past Oilers in pre-season aaction
VANCOUVER — Defenceman Quinn Hughes has been a very good player for the Vancouver Canucks during the last four seasons.
Now Hughes wants to be even better.
The 23-year-old has already established himself as a solid defenceman and crafty playmaker. This year Hughes hopes to contribute more goals.
The work Hughes put in this summer showed Saturday night as he scored twice and collected an assist as the Canucks finally found their scoring touch, rallying from an early deficit to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in an NHL pre-season game.
“I think I’m more smooth,” said Hughes, who was third in Vancouver scoring last year with 76 points but just seven goals. “I can accelerate with the puck where I want to, shoot it and get to the point a lot quicker.
“It’s something I’ve worked on for the last two summers. I’m starting to feel really comfortable with it now.”
Phillip Di Giuseppe had a goal and two assists for the Canucks (1-2-1) who had managed just two goals in their previous three exhibition games, all losses.
Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson added power-play goals while Brock Boeser collected three assists.
Adam Erne and Raphael Lavoie scored for the Oilers (2-2-1).
Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko made 24 saves, while Stuart Skinner stopped 23 shots for the Oilers.
The Canucks trailed 1-0 after being badly outplayed by the Oilers in the first period. Hughes got the Canucks back into the game with goals 1:53 apart in the second.
The Vancouver captain tied the game on a pretty play at 8:35. Di Giuseppe chased down a puck in the Edmonton end, then sent a rink-wide pass that Hughes deflected past Skinner.
Hughes put Vancouver ahead 2-1 at 10:28 when he lifted an innocent-looking backhand from the faceoff circle that got through Skinner.
Hughes isn’t abandoning the defensive part of his game, he just wants to put himself in better scoring positions.
“I’m putting myself in a position where I don’t have to circle back,” he said. “The last few seasons I had the most puck possession for any defenceman in the league, but where does that get you?
“I’m just trying to use my gifts and things that I do to have puck possession, put myself in a spot where I can create more. It’s more mental than anything.”
Canuck coach Rick Tocchet likes what Hughes has shown so far in the exhibition season.
“He worked on it a lot this summer,” said Tocchet. “He wanted to be able to fake and get into a shooting position. Even his backhand was great.”
Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said his team played well in the first period but then ran into penalty problems. It also was Edmonton’s fifth game in seven nights.
“I liked the way we started,” said Woodcroft. “I thought we gave ourselves a chance by playing fast, getting on top of them and controlling the game through the first half.
“You make a mistake here and there and it kind of compounded. We took some penalties. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
Hughes said scoring some goals was good for Vancouver’s confidence. He also knows the Oilers rested some of their best players and things will be different when the Canucks open the regular season with a pair of games against Edmonton.
“We looked good, we played smooth, we had a lot of chances,” he said. “I feel confident in the group this year.
“But at the same time, the first two games of the year that’s going to be a way different team. We have to clean some stuff up.”
Before the game the Canucks commemorated the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a ceremonial puck drop, a performance of a Coast Salish prayer song, traditional drumming and a moment of silence to honour survivors of residential schools.
Vancouver defenceman Cole McWard was called for three penalties in the first two periods. … Veteran goaltender Spencer Martin, who started last season as Vancouver’s No. 2, was claimed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday. … Players not dressed for the Canucks included centre Dakota Joshua, right-winger Vasily Podkolzin and defencemen Tucker Poolman and Jeff Woo. … Among the Oilers who didn’t make the trip were forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, defencemen Cody Ceci and Mattias Ekholm and goaltender Jack Campbell. … Canuck fans had their first chance to see the massive new video board at Rogers Arena which has wraparound screens and separate screens underneath for fans sitting in the lower bowl.
The Canucks play their final two exhibition games beginning Wednesday against the Seattle Kraken in Abbotsford, B.C., then face the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena Friday. Vancouver opens the regular season on Oct. 11 at home against the Oilers.
The Oilers play in Seattle on Monday, then host the Calgary Flames Wednesday before ending their pre-season schedule at home Friday against Seattle.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2023.