BRUINS (13-8-3) at CANUCKS (9-10-8)
TV: CBC, SN, NESN
VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom will start instead of Ryan Miller in what coach Willie Desjardins called a "must-win game" against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
Desjardins said the move to Markstrom was based on a mixture of performance and the need to rest the Miller, 35, who was excellent while starting 10 straight games to open the season but has two wins and an .894 save percentage in his past 11 games. The Canucks have three wins in their past 15 games.
"It's a little bit of both," Desjardins said. "Ryan has played well … but I think he played a lot early and I think he could even be better maybe if he is a little more rested."
Markstrom, who missed the first month of the season because of a hamstring injury, is 1-1-2 with a .917 save percentage compared to Miller's 7-9-6 record and .910 save percentage. The 6-foot-6 Swede is coming off a 38-save performance in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
"Obviously you want to play, but I just want the team to win," Markstrom said.
Markstrom could have more help in front of him with the expected return of rookie defenseman Ben Hutton, who has missed seven games with a lower-body injury.
The 22-year-old earned a surprise spot in his first season out of college with poise and puck moving, and while Hutton's play slipped with a minus-7 rating his past three games before the injury, his eight assists are still second only to Alexander Edler among Canucks defensemen.
Desjardins said the schedule caught up with Hutton and the unplanned break might help.
"It's a little mentally and physically draining and it was an adjustment and I was a little tired and it was showing on the ice," Hutton said. "But I've adjusted and I got a little break."
The Bruins could also get a defenseman back. Kevan Miller, who was averaging more than 20 minutes a game, said he is ready to return from a concussion sustained on Nov. 17.
"It's all on the coaches at this point. I am ready to go," said Miller, who skated in warmups the past two games. "It's just kind of getting the timing back and routine of the game."
Coach Claude Julien wouldn't commit to Miller's return or any other roster moves, including his goaltending.
Tuukka Rask was scheduled to start against the Canucks after backing up Jonas Gustavsson against the Calgary Flames on Friday, but Gustavsson was pulled after three goals on 11 shots and Rask ended up facing 26 shots while playing 41:24 in the 5-4 overtime loss.
Julien shortened his bench in Calgary so there could also be changes on the bottom lines.
"I can't tell you what I haven't decided yet," Julien said.
Julien was clearer about the importance of the game as the Bruins wrap up a three-game Western Canada trip that started with Boston on a five-game winning streak before losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and in overtime against Calgary.
"Four out of six (points) is a pretty successful trip but two out of six is a failure in my mind," he said.
Here are the projected lineups:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey - David Krejci - Loui Eriksson
Landon Ferraro - Ryan Spooner - Jimmy Hayes
Frank Vatrano - Joonas Kemppainen - Zac Rinaldo
Zdeno Chara - Zach Trotman
Kevan Miller/Dennis Seidenberg - Colin Miller
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Injured: Chris Kelly (leg), David Pastrnak (foot)
Scratched: Kevan Miller/Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Morrow, Tyler Randell
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata
Sven Baertschi - Adam Cracknell - Alexandre Burrows
Brandon Prust - Jared McCann - Derek Dorsett
Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Ben Hutton - Matt Bartkowski
Injured: Luca Sbisa (hand), Jake Virtanen (hip), Chris Higgins (head), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia surgery)
Scratched: Alex Biega
Status report: Desjardins said Higgins, who was hit in the head Monday against the Anaheim Ducks, was an option to play after returning to practice Friday but the veteran right wing did not take part in an optional morning skate Saturday.
Who's hot: Daniel and Henrik Sedin have combined for 15 goals and 24 assists in the past 15 games.