Injuries to more key contributors likely won’t make the Vancouver Canucks’ push toward the playoffs any easier. Then again, it hasn’t mattered who they’ve had on the ice during their extended home struggles against the Winnipeg Jets.
With offensive threat Bo Horvat potentially unavailable because of an injury, the Canucks look to avoid an eighth straight home defeat to the Jets on Wednesday night.
Already minus centers Elias Pettersson (upper-body injury), Jay Beagle (undisclosed injury) and Brandon Sutter (undisclosed), Vancouver lost Horvat, second on the team with 14 goals and fourth with 12 assists, early in the third period of Monday’s 4-0 home loss to Winnipeg after he took a slap shot to the foot or ankle. His immediate status is uncertain.
The Jets scored three times in the final period to hand the Canucks their first regulation defeat in five games and second consecutive loss after winning four in a row.
Losing another valuable center is obviously not ideal for a Vancouver club that’s gone 8-3-1 in March to put itself back into the playoff conversation. Yet, it’s also a chance for others to contribute and keep the playoff push going.
“We need guys to step up to the plate,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller, who has six goals and 10 assists in his past 18 games, told the official website of the NHL.
“A much as it (stinks) to lose pretty much all of our centers at this point, this stuff happens. This is the hard part of the season. We just need to literally challenge ourselves to be the best version of ourselves right now.”
The Canucks haven’t been good enough to beat Winnipeg in Vancouver since Dec. 20, 2016. Since then, they’ve managed nine goals and been shut out three times while going 0-6-1 at home — including 0-2-1 this season — against the Jets. Monday marked the second time this season that Vancouver was blanked there by the Jets.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck allowed at least three goals in each of his previous eight starts, but stopped all 22 shots he faced for his first 2020-21 shutout on Monday. He’s stopped 53 of 56 shots in winning both starts at Vancouver this season. Backup Laurent Brossoit has stopped all but two of the 62 shots he faced in winning both season starts — home and away — against the Canucks.
In addition to Hellebuyck’s effort, Adam Lowry scored twice Monday as the Jets avoided a third straight defeat by improving to 4-2-0 against the Canucks this season.
“I thought it was a complete, pretty solid effort,” said Lowry, who snapped a four-game point drought.
“(Vancouver) is missing some pretty key guys in their lineup, but they’ve still got some good firepower up front. … We’re not really going to change how we want to play or dictate the style regardless of who they have in the lineup.”
Winnipeg’s third-period breakout battered the Canucks’ Thatcher Demko, who made 25 saves but had not allowed more than two goals in any of this previous four starts. He stopped 79 of 81 shots while winning two of his previous three starts vs. Winnipeg this season. Backup Braden Holtby is 0-1-1 with a 4.08 goals-against average against the Jets in 2020-21.
Blake Wheeler, who scored Monday, has two goals and two assists in his past two games against Vancouver.
–Field Level Media