The Vancouver Canucks arrive in Columbus looking to salvage something from the finale of a three-game road trip, a Tuesday night showdown with the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Lately, though, the talk around the Canucks has surrounded the club’s obvious youth movement, with three talented rookie making the club out of camp this year: forwards Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann (both first-round picks) and defenseman Ben Hutton. All three have made a discernible impact on the Canucks in the early going, even if the on-ice results have been a mixed bag.
Coach Willie Desjardins, now in his second season, has to like the balance that these young forwards give his lineup. In their most recent game, offseason acquisition Brandon Sutter centered the second line with Virtanen on his right side, and despite spending most of his time on the fourth line, McCann leads Vancouver with five goals on the season.
They’ve won six of their first 15 games, but the Canucks (6-4-5) are one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division. Their current road trip began Sunday afternoon in Buffalo and marked the return of longtime Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who now holds down the No. 1 job in Vancouver. It was a tight game on both sides, but Buffalo managed a 3-2 regulation win on a goal from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with 16 seconds left in regulation – a gut punch for the Canucks.
Monday brought another solid effort from Vancouver, going toe-to-toe with the New Jersey Devils, a team playing with a lot of confidence. Down 3-1 in the third period, the Canucks rallied with goals from Alex Edler and Sven Beartschi only 2:09 apart, forcing overtime at Prudential Center.
Kyle Palmieri scored the 3-on-3 winner for New Jersey, handing the Canucks a tough defeat and sending them to Columbus in search of a win to close out the trip.
NOTE: Vancouver recalled goaltender Jacob Markstrom from Utica (AHL) on Monday, and it’s been reported that he’s the likely starter against the Blue Jackets.
On Mar. 19, 2015, the Blue Jackets visited Rogers Arena in Vancouver looking for their first win in that building in over five years.
Thanks to some help from their young players, it was a successful venture.
Down 2-0 in the second period after Bo Horvat and Daniel Sedin scored goals 40 seconds apart, the Blue Jackets began to chip away. Rene Bourque scored to bring Columbus within 2-1, Dano tied it minutes later, and Cam Atkinson gave them the lead for good with a late-second period power play goal.
Columbus got goals from Dano, Scott Hartnell and Alexander Wennberg in the third period to lock up a 6-2 win. The Blue Jackets would go on to win an overtime game in Calgary two days later, giving them their first three-game sweep of western Canada in franchise history.
Remember when the Canucks traded goaltender Cory Schneider to New Jersey at the NHL Draft? Their return was a first-round pick (No. 9 overall), and Vancouver used that pick to select a talented center from the OHL’s London Knights named Bo Horvat.
Always known as a big-game player in his junior hockey career, Horvat is starting to get more comfortable at the NHL level and he’s earning more responsibility in his second season. As of late, Horvat has played his natural center position on Vancouver’s third line, slotting in between Baertschi and veteran winger Jannik Hansen.