Itching to get back on the ice after coming to life in December, the Vancouver Canucks will return from the NHL’s extended holiday break with a visit to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
The league’s COVID-19-related pause came at an inopportune time for the Canucks, who were on a six-game winning streak and had won eight of nine games since Nov. 29.
Vancouver’s turnaround has mostly come after Bruce Boudreau became head coach on Dec. 6, replacing Travis Green. Boudreau has inserted more of a speed-oriented, up-tempo pace.
Vancouver also took advantage of a December stretch when they faced just one team in the top three places of their divisions. That game, on Dec. 12 against the Carolina Hurricanes, ended in a 2-1 victory for the Canucks.
“The biggest thing for me is for the players, with all this break, not to get complacent and think, ‘OK, everything is roses,'” Boudreau said. “We’re still near the bottom of the league. We’re not anywhere near getting in the playoffs yet.”
Boudreau said the two-week extended break helped the team recover from some bumps and bruises. The Canucks have 15 healthy forwards and seven healthy defensemen and Boudreau wasn’t too concerned about the makeup of the new taxi squad.
J.T. Miller leads the Canucks with 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists), while defenseman Quinn Hughes has helped on the offensive end with a team-leading 24 assists. Bo Horvat also has 10 goals for Vancouver.
“Obviously (the break) is something we couldn’t do anything about,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “But we’re feeling good about our game and we got back to a better spot. We still have that good feeling in our group.”
The Canucks and Ducks were to play in Canada on Dec. 23. The teams are now playing for the first time since the Ducks’ 5-1 victory at home Nov. 14. Anaheim also had a 3-2 overtime victory at Vancouver on Nov. 9.
Those Ducks victories were part of an eight-game winning streak that jump started their season following a 2-4-3 start. It also helped catapult the Ducks into a first-place tie in the Pacific Division with the Vegas Golden Knights when the holiday break began.
Youth has led the way for the Ducks with Troy Terry out in front with a team-leading 30 points (18 goals, 12 assists), followed by Trevor Zegras’ 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) and 21 points from Sonny Milano (eight goals, 13 assists).
Veteran Ryan Getzlaf also has 21 points on 20 assists, with the extended break perfect for the 36-year-old.
“He’s been able to get some rest because we’ve been running him fairly hard,” Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s another guy we’re always trying to monitor. I think it’s good for all of our guys to a certain degree.”
Unlike the Canucks, the Ducks hit the break on a sour note after a 6-5 overtime loss at home on Dec. 17 to the last-place Arizona Coyotes. The Ducks allowed more goals in that game than in their previous five contests combined.
While the Canucks used the break to recover, the Ducks still have Adam Henrique on injured reserve following a lower-body injury Dec. 3.
–Field Level Media