J.T. Miller eyes return in Canucks’ clash vs. Flames

NHL Hockey

The Vancouver Canucks expect to receive a much-needed boost in time for Monday’s road clash with the Calgary Flames. Namely, the return of top-line center J.T. Miller.

Miller tied for the team lead in goals (27) and assists (45) and led in points (72) last season. He missed Vancouver’s first three games due to a COVID-19 issue, which has also kept defenseman Jordie Benn on the shelf.

Miller originally was expected not to be cleared beforeVancouver’s home game on Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens, but he flew to Calgary in time for Sunday’s practice.

“I’m ready to get back at it,” Miller said after the session. “I’m just doing my job, and I’m excited to get back on the ice (on Monday).”

The Canucks will look to rebound after a 3-0 loss in Calgary on Saturday night, their second straight one-sided defeat.

Having Miller back will be a boon in myriad ways. Not only is he a valuable veteran presence, but linemate Elias Pettersson has struggled with just one assist during his absence. As well, Vancouver has yet to score a single power-play goal in 11 attempts this season.

Miller’s status wasn’t the only good news for the Canucks. Defenseman Alex Edler participated in practice on Sunday, one day after leaving midway through the third period after sustaining a leg laceration.

Miller’s expected return aside, the Canucks must put in a better team performance if they expect a return to the win column. After a strong season-opening win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Canucks have looked overmatched in a pair of losses by a combined 8-2 count.

“We have to play like a desperate hockey team out there,” captain Bo Horvat said. “It’s as close to the playoffs as you’re going to get, playing these mini-series. It’s going to be like that all year, and we have to be ready to respond here Monday night. You play every single game against a team in your division. All these points are important, and we’ve got to be ready to go.”

The Flames rebounded to beat the Canucks after a disappointing season opener in which they squandered a 3-1 lead en route to a 4-3 overtime loss in Winnipeg.

Calgary will look to repeat the feat versus Vancouver in the rematch. Jacob Markstrom recorded a 32-save shutout against his former club.

As happy as Markstrom was to post a perfect game against his former teammates — a matchup he said was “weirder than I thought it would be” — he is looking forward instead of in the past.

“Quick turnaround,” he said. “We’ve got another game against these guys, so we’ve got to enjoy this one, and then prepare for Monday and see what we can do better.”

The Flames certainly must create more offense during even-strength action, but their power play has been a bright spot. Over their first two games, the Flames have converted four of nine man-advantages. They were 3-for-6 against the Canucks on Saturday.

“You want to get it going early,” center Sean Monahan said. “Right now, special teams are huge this early in the season. They can win you games and lose you games.”

–Field Level Media

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