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Boeser cleared to play for Canucks in opener against Oilers

Forward sustained concussion in preseason game last week

by Kevin Woodley / Independent Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Brock Boeser was cleared for contact Monday for the first time since being placed in the NHL concussion protocol, and the Vancouver Canucks forward expects to play the season opener against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, SN, SN360, NHL.TV).

Boeser, who returned to practice in a non-contact jersey Saturday, took a regular practice shift Monday, one week after he was injured in a 6-4 preseason win against the Ottawa Senators.

"I've never had a concussion before, so I didn't know what to expect and luckily it wasn't a bad one," Boeser said. "I tried to keep positive thoughts in those first 24 hours that I could play this Wednesday so I am really lucky that I can get out there this Wednesday and be with the guys."

Boeser, who agreed to a three-year contract Sept. 16 after not attending the first six days of camp as a restricted free agent, was third on the Canucks with 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 69 games last season. He didn't get any preseason games with Micheal Ferland, who will join Boeser and Elias Pettersson on the Canucks' top line after signing as a free agent on July 10. But he played with Pettersson on the top power play and had three assists against Ottawa before getting injured in the third period. 

"I think I am going to hit the ground running," Boeser said. "I thought I came into camp in good shape and I thought I got a lot better in that second preseason game (against the Senators) and I felt good out there and I just have to continue to build off that once the season starts."

Defenseman Oscar Fantenberg, who was placed in the NHL concussion protocol after being injured in the same game against Ottawa, has also been cleared to play the season opener in Edmonton but is expected to start the season as an extra defenseman. 

With Fantenberg and Boeser returning, the Canucks waived forwards Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin, and defenseman Alex Biega, and will send all three to Utica of the American Hockey League if they clear. 

Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Boeser

Center Adam Gaudette, who could have been sent to the AHL without waivers, will start the season on the Canucks' 23-man roster after scoring four goals and two assists in six preseason games but skated as an extra forward in practice Monday. Gaudette had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 56 NHL games as a rookie last season.

"We said if you have a good camp and deserve to be here, we're going to find a way to make space for you and that's what we did today by making some hard decisions and sending other guys down," general manager Jim Benning said. "He deserves to be here to start the year."

Baertschi, who was selected by the Calgary Flames with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 26 games last season but missed most of the year with concussions. The 26-year-old forward has 108 points (58 goals, 50 assists) in 219 games over parts of five seasons in Vancouver but lost his spot in the top two lines after the offseason acquisitions of Ferland and J.T. Miller, and the Canucks didn't see a fit in the bottom six.

"It's kind of the evolution of where we are at as an organization where we have better players now and we are going to have to make these hard, tough decisions," Benning said. "Sven is a skilled player and we felt like the skillset on our team is addressed with some other players and [coach Travis Green] wants a different look, maybe faster players or players that forecheck harder or penalty killers versus keeping Sven on the opening roster."

Goldobin, a first-round pick (No. 27) by the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 NHL Draft, was seventh in Canucks scoring last season with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 63 games. But Goldobin was a healthy scratch for nine of the final 10 games and didn't fit into a checking role.

With Baertschi and Godobin gone, Jake Virtanen skated in practice on a third line with Brendan Sutter and Josh Leivo, while Tim Schaller was on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tyler Motte. Loui Eriksson, who has three seasons left on a six-year contract with an average annual value of $6 million, skated as an extra forward with Gaudette on Monday. 

"It's not an easy league to make full time," Green said. "[Baertschi and Goldobin] are both skilled players. I like them both personally. It's part of the business that's hard to be honest."

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