After losing two games to the Montreal Canadiens this week, the Vancouver Canucks must deal with a rested opponent when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for a three-game series that opens Thursday night.
The Canucks lost 6-2 on Monday and 5-3 on Tuesday in Montreal while the Maple Leafs have not played since Saturday when they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Canucks are halfway through a six-game road trip.
The Maple Leafs took seven of a possible eight points in their four-game trip that started with a two-game sweep of the Calgary Flames and ended with a win and the overtime loss at Edmonton.
“Overall, there are some really positive things we’re doing that we can build off,” said Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who has scored a goal in five straight games. “It’s kind of been a bit of a shotgun start to the season, so it’ll be nice to re-energize, regroup as a team and get right back to it.”
After keeping most of the regulars off the ice on Monday, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe used the next two days for practice.
“We have lots to continue to work at, in my mind, in a lot of ways,” Keefe said. “I think just the way this lines up here — we didn’t get a traditional exhibition season, obviously. It’s sort of a turning of the page in some sense where we’ve got a pretty good sense of what we are as a group and where we need to go and grow and get better. We expect to bring it to another level when we come back to play after this break.”
The Maple Leafs are 7-2-1, but Keefe sees room for improvement.
“In particular on this past trip, we saw a pretty dramatic reduction in our pace and how much we had the puck, and how much we played on offense,” Keefe said. “That’s not a choice of ours.”
Added Maple Leafs captain John Tavares: “We want to be a better defensive team and more consistently defend better. At times, when you do that, you’re also not going to get some chances to go your way. We’re just trying to find that right balance as a group.”
The 6-7 Canucks were on a four-game winning streak when they arrived in Montreal.
Canucks coach Travis Green adjusted his lines for the game on Tuesday. Bo Horvat skated between J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson had Tanner Pearson and rookie Nils Hoglander as his wingers.
“I felt like we needed a different look,” Green said. “There has been a lot of talk of certain players not playing well and sometimes a breath of fresh air kind of alleviates some of that pressure. We had a good team talk and some individual talks and every player was buying in (Tuesday) on how we needed to play. I was looking for us to respond in the right way and we did.”
It did not result in a win but Green liked the results.
“I liked our third period, and we came up a little short,” Green said. “We looked like a team that knew what it takes to win. It was a grinding game early and a step in the right direction for sure.”
–Field Level Media