The retooling Vancouver Canucks are still adjusting to life without former teammates. So are the rebuilding St. Louis Blues.
Their transition will continue Thursday when the Blues host the Canucks.
The Canucks traded captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders earlier this season. Veteran defenseman Luke Schenn is expected to be the next to go, returning to Vancouver to await his trade ahead of the NHL’s March 3 deadline.
With Schenn absent and defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Travis Dermott on injured reserve, the Canucks suffered multiple breakdowns in their own zone during their 5-4 shootout loss Tuesday in Nashville.
“(Schenn’s) a big part of this room and big part of the team,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said. “Everything that’s said about the guy is true: he’s a good family man, he’s a good teammate. It sucks to see this stuff happen, but at the same time, it’s part of the business and we need to be able to put the game face on.”
The Canucks are 2-5-1 since Feb. 6. New coach Rick Tocchet has been trying to implement new systems on the fly since replacing Bruce Boudreau earlier this season.
“We’re building towards being a good team, playing a good system,” Canucks defenseman Ethan Bear said. “(Tocchet) and our coaches are preaching the right things. I wouldn’t understand it unless I’d played in Carolina (last season). Seeing the way they operate, we’re going in that same direction and it’s good to see. It gives you hope.”
Earlier this month, the Blues traded winger Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola to the New York Rangers, and captain Ryan O’Reilly and forward Noel Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They have lost their last three games by the combined score of 15-4. But coach Craig Berube thought his team showed a bit more life during its 4-1 loss at Carolina on Tuesday night.
“I thought we battled,” Berube said. “I didn’t mind the first period and the third period. The second period, I thought that (the Hurricanes) took the play to us a little bit too much.”
Like the Canucks, the Blues have struggled at the defensive end.
“We’ve just got to focus on it,” Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. “They’re mental errors and it’s a commitment to play defense. It’s hard. It’s not glorious, or glamorous, I should say. Not a ton of reward for it, well there is, you just don’t see it as much. You get a lot of chances offensively if you play well defensively. We just have to commit to it. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
The Blues got veteran Marco Scandella back this week as the defenseman made his season debut after hip surgery. Berube believes winger Pavel Buchnevich could return from his lower-body injury against the Canucks.
Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko is expected back in action soon after recovering from a lower-body injury. He has resumed practicing with the team.
St. Louis won the previous game between these teams, 5-1 on Dec. 19 in Vancouver. Jordan Kyrou scored three goals and added an assist, and goaltender Jordan Binnington made 33 saves.
–Field Level Media