Brock Boeser returns to Vancouver as Canucks prepare to face the Bruins
Thursday November 8 - Vancouver Canucks at Boston Bruins - 4 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 16 GP, 9-6-1, 19 pts, third in Pacific Division
Boston Bruins: 14 GP, 8-4-2, 18 pts, third in Atlantic Division
The Vancouver Canucks will be without Brock Boeser for the foreseeable future as they continue their eastern road trip with a visit to TD Garden in Boston on Thursday.
That means the team's lines are expected to be the same as what we saw in Detroit on Tuesday, where the Canucks manufactured a ton of shots but not that many high-danger scoring chances.
Bo Horvat will once again be carrying a heavy defensive load, and taking most of the team's key draws, but maybe the offense will get a boost from the two New England boys who will be playing in front of family and friends tonight.
Local college hockey hero Adam Gaudette and former Bruin Tim Schaller will both be suiting up against the B's in Beantown for the first time—and will be warmly welcomed, even on the enemy side.
Both players did play in the Canucks' 2-1 overtime win over Boston at Rogers Arena back on October 20. Gaudette had one shot on goal in 7:18 of ice time, while Schaller played 12:14.
That win was Horvat's big night, when he threw down against Noel Acciari, then scored the overtime winner.
Once again, the Canucks will be facing Jaroslav Halak in net on Thursday. Signed as an unrestricted free agent for two years at $2.75 million during the offseason, the 33-year-old has essentially been splitting Boston's goaltending duties with 31-year-old Tuukka Rask. Each player has four wins but Halak's individual numbers continue to be stronger. His 1.45 goals-against average and .952 save percentage are tops in the league among goalies with five or more starts, while Rask is 2.78 and .909.
The Bruins were pretty banged up when they rolled through Vancouver last month. Since then, David Backes has returned up front and Torey Krug is back on the blue line, but the team is still thin on D without Charlie McAvoy, who has now missed seven games with what's being called an upper-body injury, as well as Kevan Miller (hand) and rookie Urho Vaakanainen, who played just two games before suffering a concussion courtesy of the elbow of Ottawa's Mark Borowiecki.
Despite the absences, the Bruins have continued to play well defensively. They're 4-2-0 since their visit to Vancouver and have given up more than two goals just once, in a 3-0 shutout loss to Montreal. But after their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak got off to a blazing start to the season, offense has been a little hard to come by. Pastrnak comes into Thursday's game tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals (12), but both of Boston's recent losses have come via shutouts.
The Bruins are currently in the midst of a four-game homestand, which kicked off with a 2-1 overtime win over Dallas on Monday night.
Tonight will mark Elias Pettersson's career debut against Boston. He was still on the injured list when the Bruins played in Vancouver.
With his early-season performance, the hype train for Pettersson is now up to full speed. I was already marvelling at what a special player he appeared to be when I chatted with film director Gabe Polsky back in September, when the Canucks were just a couple of games into their preseason schedule.
A few years back, Polsky directed the excellent documentary "Red Army," which featured a candid interview with Slava Fetisov about the legendary Soviet hockey team. If you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out.
His latest project is a new doc called "In Search of Greatness," which hit theatres last weekend. This film is a deeper exploration of what separates the top athletes in sports from the rest of the pack, and features interviews with Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice and Pelé.
Polsky's passionate about the idea that creativity and vision makes the difference, and that the structure we see so often in youth sports often coaches those traits out of young players. He's from Chicago, and also mentioned his appreciation for Patrick Kane's flair to me. He didn't know Pettersson yet when we spoke, but our boy does indeed seem to be one of those players that fits Polsky's paradigm.
Here's more on the director and the film:
To close today: one roster note, if you missed it. To make room for Chris Tanev's return to the blue line on Tuesday, the Canucks returned Jalen Chatfield to the Utica Comets. Alex Biega remains with the team as the seventh defenseman.
Enjoy the game!