But it’s hard to remember a darker time than this for the Canucks, whose on-ice struggle has been overshadowed for the past five weeks by serious issues moving away from it.
After emerging from the most dangerous COVID-19 outbreak of the National Hockey League season with a pair of unlikely and uplifting wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canucks have lost five of their last six games, including four in a row, to fall. the Canadian Division playoff race for good.
They’ve scored six goals in those five losses – three of them last Wednesday in the last of three losses to the Ottawa Senators – and look sorry about them.
The Canucks are strapped for energy and are now running out of forwards as they open four games in six nights against the Edmonton Oilers when they take on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl tonight at Rogers Arena with just one of the top four Vancouver centers.
Coach Travis Green has confirmed after morning practice that third row center Brandon Sutter will not play tonight due to an upper body injury.
Control center Jay Beagle has come out with an undisclosed injury since March 10 and frontline center Elias Pettersson has not played since March 2 when he left the roster with a wrist injury that was supposed to be be daily but which has been transformed. into something far more disturbing.
Including depth players added along the way and winger Jake Virtanen, who was put on leave on Saturday following a sexual assault allegation, the team are missing eight forwards. The record is nine if you count Micheal Ferland, who has spent the entire season on the long-term injured list due to concussion issues.
That’s nine forwards amid a losing streak on a team of COVID survivors who are due to play their last 11 games of this pandemic season in just 17 days.
“Yeah, when you look at him like that. . . you know that’s a lot, ”Green said of the injuries. “You don’t usually experience this; I don’t think we’ve had eight injured attackers yet.
Almost all of the injuries are from the Canucks’ last two lines. The one that is not, for Pettersson, has become the most critical.
Green compared the breaking qualities of the recent Calder Trophy winner to Auston Matthews of Toronto, who had some opportunistic goals in Saturday’s 5-1 win as the Maple Leafs were beaten by the Canucks for two periods. .
“Where do you start?” Green said when asked about Pettersson’s disappearance.
“I thought we played two really strong periods and a game breaker was scoring two goals, and you miss that. It’s not an excuse, but I’m also not going to sit here and say that we don’t miss this in our alignment. We have already won without him, but we have also had other players who have played. Petey is part of our team. He tries to come back, he works hard to come back and. . . if he was ready to play, he would.
“But when you talk about your best players and what they bring to your squad, there’s a reason these guys are where they are at. They make a difference, they create opportunity, they easily relieve pressure, not only. in the offensive zone but in your own zone. But we can’t dwell on it and we haven’t. It’s a big part, but he’s not there and we worry about the guys who are here.
Rookie Nils Hoglander has been in the Canucks’ top six all season, and rookie called Kole Lind will play his third straight game tonight alongside Bo Horvat.
Of tonight’s last six forwards – Matthew Highmore-Tyler Graovac-Jayce Hawryluk and Jimmy Vesey-Travis Boyd-Zack MacEwen – only MacEwen was a regular (mostly) when this season began.
“It’s just different,” veteran defenseman Tyler Myers said of the mental challenge facing the Canucks.
“It’s a very unique situation, especially with what happened last month (with the epidemic). In saying that, we’re technically still in it right now. A lot is going to come down to this week, these next four games against a good team that has been successful this year. You look at every guy in the room; each guy we fight hard.
Effort has rarely been a problem for Green’s team. Everything else seems to be.