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Canucks look to extend feel-good homestand against globetrotting Flyers

October 12, 2019, 3:06 PM ET [286 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Saturday October 12 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers - 7 p.m. - Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet 650

Vancouver Canucks - 3 GP, 1-2-0, 2 pts, fifth in Pacific Division
Philadelphia Flyers - 2 GP, 2-0-0, 4 pts, fourth in Metropolitan Division

The Vancouver Canucks and their fans are still riding high after a home-opener that got Drew Doughty good and mad.

A truncated version of his postgame quote from Wednesday night has gotten wide play. Thomas Drance ran the full version in The Athletic, and it's delicious.

“I mean I ain’t going to park it, it’s f***ing just embarrassing,” a toasty Doughty told reporters postgame of his club’s performance. “A team like that should not be beating a team like ours 8-2, there’s absolutely no way.”

Not surprisingly after their big win, the Canucks went with the same forward and defense combinations at their practice on Friday at 8 Rinks. Saturday's game-day skate is optional, so all indications are that there won't be any surprises when the Canucks host the Flyers on Saturday night.

With the light schedule to start the season, Jacob Markstrom is expected to make his fourth-straight start in goal. Thatcher Demko should finally get some game action next weekend: the middle part of the Canucks' four-game road trip includes back-to-back early-day contests on Saturday against New Jersey and Sunday against the Rangers.

As for the Flyers — they're off to a good start, and playing just their third game of the year, but I wonder if the late west-coast start is going to be an issue for them. They were one of the two teams involved in the NHL Global Series game in Prague last Friday, so over the last two weeks, they've gone from Philly to Switzerland to Czech Republic, back to Philly and now on to Vancouver to kick off their three-game Western road swing.

The new, AV-coached Flyers are off to a 2-0 start, with a 4-3 win over Chicago in Prague, then a 4-0 home shutout win over the Devils last Wednesday. After signing a new six-year, $33-million contract in mid-September that's identical to his cousin Bo Horvat's current deal, Travis Konecny is currently leading the Flyers in scoring with three goals and five points.

In addition to coach Vigneault, there are plenty of new faces on the Flyers this year. The team made a big splash by signing unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes to a $50-million deal, traded for defenseman Matt Niskanen and is currently running with rookie forwards Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman.

Between their new coach and their trip to Europe, the Flyers were the perfect subject to be featured in NHL Network's "Behind The Glass" series this year. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with a couple of the producers about the process that goes into turning around a show like this on such a tight timeline, and what makes for compelling content.

The shows have offered great insight into how Vigneault has gone about putting his team together, as well as offering snapshots of many of the team's key players and insight into how a rookie like Twarynski has parlayed a great camp into a roster spot over a more highly-touted prospect like Joel Farabee.

The Flyers got into town on Thursday night and practiced at UBC on Friday. According to our own Bill Meltzer, here's how Philly's lines are projected to roll on Saturday night:

8 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes - 93 Jakub Voracek
23 Oskar Lindblom - 14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
25 James van Riemsdyk - 21 Scott Laughton- 81 Carsen Twarynski
82 Connor Bunnaman - 12 Michael Raffl- 18 Tyler Pitlick

9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 15 Matt Niskanen
53 Shayne Gostisbehere - 8 Robert Hägg

79 Carter Hart
[37 Brian Elliott]

When we last saw the Flyers at Rogers Arena on December 15, 2018, the Canucks crushed them by a 5-1 score — wrapping up a winless Western Canadian road trip and triggering Dave Hakstol's firing.

Hakstol has landed behind the Toronto Maple Leafs' bench as one of Mike Babcock's assistants this year, and the Flyers' fortunes have been buoyed by the arrival of Carter Hart, who earned first-star honours off a 41-save performance when the Flyers beat the Canucks 2-1 on home ice last February. An Alberta boy who starred in the WHL before joining the Flyers, Hart recorded his first career NHL shutout last Wednesday against New Jersey and will play his first-ever game in Vancouver on Saturday.

I had a chance to talk to Hart for The Hockey News when he backed up Matt Murray for Team Canada at the World Championship in Slovakia last spring. The story's behind their paywall but if you're a subscriber, you can click here to read.

While I was on the Hockey News site, a Quinn Hughes photo caught my eye. He may not be on PP1 yet, but Sam McCaig points out that Hughes is currently leading all rookies in ice time, averaging 20:26 a game to put him just ahead of Nashville's Dante Fabbro, Colorado's Cale Makar and Winnipeg's Ville Heinola.

Hughes' three points in three games also have time tied with Heinola and Makar as the top-scoring rookie defensemen of the year so far.

While you're waiting for the Canucks and Flyers to hit the ice, don't forget the Utica Comets are finally back in action — playing their second game of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a season-opening road win over Binghamton.

Of course, Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin have both landed in Utica, so the big club's overabundance of wingers has now flowed over to the farm. It'll be interesting to see how Trent Cull builds his lineup today, also keeping the AHL's veteran-limit rule in mind.

Though there are plenty of bodies on the wing, the Comets are now a bit thin down the middle. Tyler Graovac was injured in the opener against Binghamton, so the team's primary options are centre are Carter Camper, Wacey Hamilton, Seamus Malone and Dyson Stevenson. Malone's currently out injured. Stevenson can also play wing and Lukas Jasek, who's listed as a right-winger on the Comets' roster page, can play in the middle, so I'd expect we'll see Camper, Jasek, Hamilton and Stevenson down the middle tonight.

Game time's 4:05 p.m. PT from Pennsylvania. And while AHL-TV's free preview weekend is over, their single-team packages are priced at just $59.99 — not bad for a whole season where the Comets should be pretty interesting to watch this year.

Enjoy the games!
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