NEXT GAME: SUNDAY
Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks
4 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM
THE BIG MATCHUP
Bo Horvat vs. Sasha Barkov
With rookie Elias Pettersson still out of the Canucks’ lineup, the heavy lifting offensively and defensively once again falls on Bo Horvat. Horvat hasn’t scored since before Christmas, so you know he’s anxious to find his mojo. Sasha Barkov is the top guy for the Panthers, so figure on these two going head to head.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Lou’s last show at Rogers?
Is this Roberto Luongo’s last visit to Vancouver? The popular netminder has three seasons to go on his contract after this one. He’ll turn 40 in April and has had two injuries this season that saw him miss time. He was great last year, but in 22 games this season, his save percentage has dipped to .891 —well below his career norm.
2. Defence pairings
After Thursday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Canucks coach Travis Green acknowledged things haven’t been going well for the second defensive pairing of Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson and hinted he might look at switching them up. Going off practice, Gudbranson will skate with Derrick Pouliot, with whom he’s had some success, while Hutton will be with Troy Stecher, another pairing that’s played well.
3. Demko debut?
Might Green be tempted to start rookie netminder Thatcher Demko against the Panthers? He’s backed up Jacob Markstrom the last two games. He’s going to play sometime.
4. Return of Josh Leivo
All signs point to Josh Leivo returning from the back spasms that knocked him out of the lineup just over a week ago. He’s missed three games. The Canucks have a winning record when he’s in the lineup.
To activate Leivo from the injured reserve list, the Canucks will have to make a roster move, either sending Adam Gaudette back to Utica, or putting another player, like one of their spare defencemen —Michael Del Zotto or Alex Biega — on waivers.
5. Beware the Panthers’ PP
Things may not be going all that well in Panthers-land, but the power play isn’t the issue. They’re fourth in the league. The likes of Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Keith Yandle and Mike Hoffman are dominant with the man advantage. Watch out.
LW – C – RW
Sven Baertschi — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser
Nikolay Goldobin — Markus Granlund — Josh Leivo
Antoine Roussel — Brandon Sutter — Jake Virtanen
Loui Eriksson — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte
Alex Edler — Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton — Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot — Erik Gudbranson
Goalie: Jacob Markstrom
LW – C – RW
Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman — Henrik Borgstrom — Denis Malgin
Frank Vatrano — Juho Lammikko — Troy Brouwer
Jayce Hawryluk — Colton Sceviour — Micheal Haley
Michael Matheson — Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle — Mark Pysyk
Bogdan Kiselevich — Mackenzie Weegar
Goalie: Roberto Luongo
Canucks: Elias Pettersson (knee), Josh Leivo (back spasms)
Panthers: Jamie McGinn (back), Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Vincent Trocheck (ankle), Nick Bjugstad (upper body)
Canucks: 17.3% (21st), Panthers: 18.3% (19th)
Canucks: 78.3% (22nd), Panthers: 27.0% (4th)
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