Canucks Game Day: Planning for Pettersson is Job 1 for Red Wings

BEN KUZMA’S CANUCKS GAME DAY

Vancouver Canucks at Detroit Red Wings
Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., Little Caesars Arena, Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650

THE BIG MATCHUP

Elias Pettersson versus Jimmy Howard

Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said he’s “a real big fan” of Elias Pettersson and gushed to the point Monday where he added that “he loves” the slick Swedish centre. Part of that is the manner is which the Canucks rookie became just the 16th player in NHL history to score at least nine goals in his first nine games. Part of that is being named rookie of the month for October and the league’s second star the past week. Said Blashill: “Lots of players are fast and big and he’s probably neither, but man does he create a lot of space. Good on his edges, very smart and a fun player to watch and I hope he’s not fun tomorrow (Tuesday) night.“

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Pettersson’s prime-time playmaking

Pettersson will draw added attention on this trip and the best way the 19-year-old rookie centre can clip the Wings is to do what he does best. An amazing three-zone awareness allows the prime-time playmaker to trigger the transition and his quick, laser-like passes are tough to defend. He sprang Brock Boeser twice with long bombs against the Avs on Friday, the first a difficult cross-ice feed and then a Sedin-like long play off the end boards.

2. Boeser aggravated groin in Friday win

The manner in which the Canucks rallied for an overtime win over the Avs seemed to bode well for Boeser. His goals were akin to last November and he seemed to have more giddy-up in his stride and a shoot-first mentality. He took a “maintenance” day Saturday and after a brief pre-practice twirl Monday, the winger felt another twinge of pain from a groin his first injured on Oct. 18 in Winnipeg. Brendan Leipsic took his practice spot Monday.

3. Markstrom must stay off his knees

Jacob Markstrom is tracking pucks better and that’s a tough task for a towering stopper. However, instead of looking over defenders and opposition forwards crowding his crease, he has added a tweak to his game by peeking around crowds to keep his eyes on pucks. It’s working. He’s better at that, but can’t fall to his knees, make himself look small and allow pucks to through him or over his shoulder. It happened twice Friday.

4. All hands on the face-off deck

Bo Horvat got a practice break Saturday. He has logged major minutes and defensive zone face-offs in the absence of Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle. Horvat won 23 of 35 draws Friday (66 per cent) and played a career-high 25:01. Pettersson won nine of 14 faceoffs and Brendan Gaunce won four of seven.

5. Rasmussen finding his way

At 6-foot-6, Michael Rasmussen is going to be noticed on the wing. More importantly, the Wings have noticed the Vancouver native starting to show promise after they selected the former Tri-City Americans sniper ninth overall in the 2017 draft. He has but two goals in 12 games, but is protecting pucks better, making plays and getting some power-play time. And there was no thought of returning him to the WHL.

CANUCKS

Forwards

Tim Schaller — Bo Horvat— Jake Virtanen
Brendan Leipsic — Elias Pettersson — Nikolay Goldobin
Antoine Roussel — Markus Granlund — Loui Eriksson
Darren Archibald — Adam Gaudette — Tyler Motte

Defence

Ben Hutton — Erik Gudbranson
Michael Del Zotto — Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot — Chris Tanev

Goal

Jacob Markstrom — Richard Bachman

RED WINGS

Forwards

Darren Helm — Dylan Larkin — Anthony Mantha
Gustav Nyquist — Jacob De La Rose — Michael Rasumussen
Justin Abdelkader — Luke Glendening — Tyler Bertuzzi
Luke Witkowski — Wade Megan — Martin Frik

Defence

Dennis Cholowski — Mike Green
Dan Dekeyser — Trevor Daley
Niklas Kronwall — Nick Jensen

Goal

Jimmy Howard — Jonathan Bernier

INJURIES

Canucks: Brandon Sutter (separated shoulder, IR), Anders Nilsson (finger facture, day-to-day). Sven Baertschi (concussion, IR), Alex Edler (knee sprain, IR), Jay Beagle (forearm fracture IR).
Wings: Frans Nielsen (game-time decision),Tomas Vanek (lower body, day-to-day), Evgeny Svechnikov (undisclosed, IR), Jonathan Ericsson (undisclosed, day-to-day), Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed, day-to-day), Johan Franzen (concussion, IR).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play
Canucks: 16th (20.4%)
Wings: 10th (25 %)

Penalty kill
Canucks: 9th (82.1%)
Wings: 11th (81.1%)

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