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Canucks injuries are making it tough to end their losing streak – Vancouver Is Awesome

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The start of the 2022-23 season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the Vancouver Canucks. 

Mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Canucks desperately need to find a way to win a game. There are a lot of reasons why the team is struggling to find a win. There have been defensive breakdowns, struggles to break the puck out cleanly, and Thatcher Demko hasn’t stolen games the way he’s shown he’s capable of doing in the past. 

Not that it’s Demko’s fault, per se. He’s repeatedly faced shots that seemed impossible to stop. It’s just that Canucks fans have also seen him make seemingly impossible saves. Without Demko making those saves, the Canucks have been exposed. 

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There’s another factor that has made it tough for the Canucks to buy a win and break out of their early-season slump: injuries.

A multitude of injuries on defence

Injuries aren’t an excuse — every NHL team deals with them — but they certainly don’t make things any easier for a team that was already in a tough spot. The Canucks have the forward depth to deal with injuries fairly well but their defensive depth is lacking.

At the start of the season, the Canucks were missing two defencemen — Tyler Myers with a lower-body injury and Travis Dermott with a concussion — as well as newly-acquired top-nine winger Ilya Mikheyev with a lower-body injury. Even as Myers and Mikheyev returned to the lineup after three games, other players hit the injured list. 

Tucker Poolman has played just three games this season and is now on long-term injured reserve with no timeline for a return. His 2021-22 season was ended by migraines, though there is no word on what is currently keeping him out of the lineup.

Riley Stillman hasn’t played since he took a hit to the head against the Minnesota Wild and is considered day-to-day.

That’s not to say there are no forwards injured. Brock Boeser, after recovering from hand surgery in time for the season opener, missed Monday’s game with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day. Curtis Lazar was added to the injured reserve on Wednesday and is expected to miss three to four weeks after trying to play through an undisclosed injury. 

The injury that has hurt the most the last couple of games is to Quinn Hughes, a lower-body injury that head coach Bruce Boudreau called week-to-week, but general manager Patrik Allvin called day-to-day on Wednesday, saying he expects he’ll return next week.

Hughes is the only Canucks defenceman that can consistently evade the forecheck and break the puck out of the defensive zone. Without Hughes, the defence struggled in that area against the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes. 

With Hughes, Dermott, Poolman, and Stillman all out of the lineup, the Canucks’ defensive depth is being sorely tested. The Canucks have already dressed ten defencemen this season — they’ve had seasons where they’ve never dressed that many, such as the 2019-20 season when they used just eight defencemen all year and one of them, Ashton Sautner, was for just one game.

“It’s our veterans.”

In place of the injured players, Kyle Burroughs has had to play a larger role and has mostly been up to the task. AHL call-ups Guillaume Brisebois and Noah Juulsen have stepped into third-pairing roles with varying degrees of success — Juulsen looks overwhelmed at the NHL level, but Brisebois played a simple game against the Hurricanes, avoiding mistakes and preventing dangerous chances.

The defencemen the Canucks really need more from, however, are veterans Oliver Ekman-Larrson and Tyler Myers, and rookie Jack Rathbone.

Ekman-Larsson and Myers were at least league average as a shutdown pairing last season — they regularly faced tough competition and, with the help of Demko behind them, kept the puck out of the net. 

This season, they’re not doing as well. Myers’ injury to start the year doesn’t help, but it seems like Ekman-Larsson is playing even more conservatively than usual, keeping a wide gap to prevent being beaten wide with his diminished skating ability but, as a result, allowing opposing forwards to enter the Canucks’ zone far too easily. 

Along with being too permissive, Ekman-Larsson’s puck management hasn’t been good enough. He had two bad giveaways in the home opener that led to goals against in the first period. Breakout passes have never really been the strength of Ekman-Larsson’s game — he was always better at skating the puck out but his declining mobility has limited his ability to do so.

Boudreau put the onus on the veterans after Saturday’s game.

“A lot of the defencemen that were in there were working their [butts off], the young guys anyway, doing what they could to help stem the tide,” said Boudreau. “But it’s our veterans, they’re the ones — the leaders have got to take this and say, ‘Okay, enough is enough.’ And if they don’t do it, then it’s a long year.”

Rathbone looks good but results haven’t been

That said, what the Canucks really need is Jack Rathbone to step up his game.

Rathbone couldn’t crack the lineup through the first five games of the season, even as the Canucks rattled off repeated losses. It took injuries for Rathbone to finally get into the lineup for the home opener.

Now that he’s in the lineup, Rathbone looks the part of an NHL-caliber offensive defenceman. He has the puckhandling and skating ability to evade the forecheck, he can pass the puck crisply, and he seems to be the only Canucks defenceman apart from Hughes who actually acts as a catalyst in the offensive zone, attacking aggressively from the point with quick give-and-goes to open up passing lanes down low.

The trouble is that the results have not followed yet for Rathbone. When he’s been on the ice at 5-on-5, shot attempts have been 36-to-22 for the opposition and the Canucks have been outscored 3-to-0. His expected goals percentage from Natural Stat Trick is an appalling 17.74%, the lowest among Canucks defencemen, and high-danger chances have been 12-to-0 against. 

That’s not entirely on Rathbone. He’s been hung out to try on occasion by his teammates — one of the Ekman-Larsson giveaways on Saturday led to one of those goals against with Rathbone on the ice — but he’s had some turnovers on his own. 

But with Hughes out for the time being, Rathbone might be the Canucks’ only hope for getting some offensive punch from the back end. At some point, he has to start tilting the ice in the other direction. So far, as good as he’s looked, the Canucks are drowning when Rathbone has been on the ice.

New medical and training staff

The Canucks have an almost entirely new medical staff this season dealing with these early injuries. After the 2021-22 season, the Canucks let go of head athletic therapist Jon Sanderson and head strength-and-conditioning coach Roger Takahashi, both long-time employees. Two assistant athletic therapists, Dave Zarn and Nick Addey-Jibb were also dismissed, along with assistant strength-and-conditioning coach Ken Hetzel.

Josh Termeer, formerly with the Calgary Stampeders, is the Canucks’ new head athletic therapist this season. Mark Cesari, a former strength-and-conditioning coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, replaced Takahashi. 

The Canucks also hired two chiropractors. Dr. Harry Sese, a chiropractor and massage therapist, was primarily known for his work with golfers before joining the Canucks as a health and performance consultant — he leads the strength-and-conditioning department.

Dr. Erik Yuill was the team chiropractor for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Warriors before joining the Canucks. 

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Edmonton Oilers turn it on against a wounded opponent in an 8-2 win: Cult of Hockey Player Grades – Edmonton Journal

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The Edmonton Oilers earned only their 2nd 2-0 lead of the season against the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday. Then did not look back, en route to an 8-2 no-doubter at Rogers Place.

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And while Edmonton deserves fair marks for the victory…

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Arizona came into this one with just 1 win in their last 10 games and at the tail end of a withering 14-game road trip.

Bad team. Bad schedule. Bad result.

Aside from the 2 points, Jay Woodcroft was able to ease off the gas on McDavid, Draisaitl and Hyman’s ice time.

Here is the tale of the tape…

Cult of Hockey Player Grades

STUART SKINNER. 7. As good as they needed him to be. Stuart Skinner’s best save early was a point-blank stuff on Crouse. Excellent kick save on Keller in the 2nd. Left to his own devices on an Oilers defensive zone breakdown on the 3-1. Handled a breakaway shot in the 3rd thanks in part to a hard back-check by Bouchard. Stopped 16-18.

CONNOR McDAVID. 9. Second assist on the 1-0. Drew a Power Play with a dogged play in the high slot and then fed Draisaitl net side for the 3-0. Just missed an opportunity short side. Received a stretch pass from Draisaitl and then sifted a nice pass to Hyman who took it hard to the net. A lightening fast wraparound on a circus-like pass from Draisaitl made it 7-1. A 1-timer from the bottom of the circle off a Hyman pass made it 8-1. His 18:32 was the least so far this season.

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LEON DRAISAITL. 7. Could not bat home a rebound off a pass from McDavid in the 1st. Contributed to 3 chances on a 2nd Period PP. The next man advantage, he made short work of a tidy McDavid pass net side for the 3-0. Fired a stretch pass in the 2nd that ended with a Hyman chance in tight. Who did not marvel at the spin-o-rama at the attacking blueline followed by the sublime cross-ice backhand pass to McDavid for the 7-1. A relatively light night at 17:40. 57% on draws.

ZACH HYMAN. 6. Drew a 1st Period Power Play and then was net front on the resulting 1-0. Took a McDavid set up hard to the net in the 2nd. Another net drive in the 3rd, followed by a terrific pass that McDavid turned into the 8-1. 4 shots. Good to see him healthy.

DARNELL NURSE. 7. A fine defensive play thwarted a would-be Arizona 2-on-1 in the 1st. An assist on McDavid’s 1st. Quiet, confident game.

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CODY CECI. 5. 1st Period hooking minor. 2 hits, 2 blocks.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 9. He was excellent. Wristed home his 12th of the season on a Power Play in the 1st. Another hard wrister after an Arizona turnover delivered career NHL goal 209 to make it 4-1. That tied him with the great Paul Coffey for 8th on the all-time franchise list. A helper on the Draisaitl goal. Late to his man on the 8-2. 4 shots in 17:59. 50% on draws. A clean sheet in 1:16 of PK time.

MATTIAS JANMARK. 6. Dangerous wrap-around attempt in the 1st. Next shift won an important battle to help clear his own zone. 3 shots.

KAILER YAMAMOTO. 7. His hustle drew an interference call on a pic to negate an Arizona Power Play. Good positioning on the forecheck and then intercepted a clumsy pass and funneled it up to Nugent-Hopkins for the 4-1. Earned the primary assist on the Kulak goal. 3rd Period breakaway but his back-hand deke was stopped. Has been since he has been back.

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BRETT KULAK. 6. His elite skating skills were on full display to erase a would-be Arizona breakaway by Maccelli in the 2nd. Corralled his man but got no puck support from his forwards on the 3-1. Walked in and fired a laser off a hard-working flurry by Holloway and Yamamoto for the 5-1. His man deflected home the 8-2.

TYSON BARRIE. 8. Primary assist on the 1-0. Threw a lovely cross-seam pass to Nugent-Hopkins on a 1st period PP. Wrist shot off a 2-on-1 feed from Ryan. On the ice but not at fault on the 3-1. Diving block broke up an Arizona 2-on-1. Zone entry on the 8-1. 3 shots, +2. High Dangers 6-2. Led the club in TOI at 22:40. The Oilers best D-man tonight.

JAMES HAMBLIN. 5. Good defensive stick at his own blueline in the 1st. Hustled. A shot.

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DYLAN HOLLOWAY. 7. Drew a penalty in the 1st by tucking his shoulder into Nemeth on a hard net drive. Tremendous shift late in the 2nd where he created a chance, just missed one of his own, and then finally drew the 2nd assist on Kulak’s 5-1 goal. Hard 3rd Period net drive but the puck wobbled wide. Led the Oilers in 5v5 CF at 14-3, 82%.A very noticeable 15:05 of TOI.

JESSE PULJUJARVI. 5. 3 shots credited although none particularly dangerous.

EVAN BOUCHARD. 6. Looked much better tonight after the benching last game. Walked in from the point and ripped a hard wrist shot early in the 2nd. 3 shots 3 hits. 22:0q in a boucne-back effort.

PHILIP BROBERG. 6. Second assist on the 2-0. Inadvisable reverse in own zone led to a long Arizona shift in the Edmonton zone. But over-all a solid effort.

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DEVIN SHORE. 5. 80% on faceoffs. Worked hard, fought the puck a fair bit. 3rd Period minor.

KLIM KOSTIN. 8. The Gordie Howe hat trick for the big forward. Rattled the boards with a hit on Nemeth. Later, calmly cleared the zone and then putted a smart pass up the middle which Derek Ryan deposited for the 2-0. Could not clear the zone up the wall on the 3-1 against, although the bounce did him no favors. Laser wrist shot glove side high on the 6-1. Finally, took on and bloodied the nose of Zack Kassian in a late scrap. 3 hits. Opening some eyes…

DEREK RYAN. 7. Had a very good night. Scored an industrious goal for the 2-0 by grabbing a Kostin area pass, battling past 2 defenders, and then depositing a skillful for-back-for-back deke. Fed Barrie on a 2nd Period 2-on-1. Lost his check on the 3-1. Forced a 3rd Period turnover which Kostin deposited for the 6-1. 1:19 short handed.

The Oilers are now 15-12 for 30 points in 27 games. That is good for 4th in the Pacific, and in the 1st Wild Card spot. Minnesota is up next.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, on Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and now on Mastodon at KurtLeavins@mstdn.social

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Seattle Kraken to release Shane Wright for World Juniors – TSN

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The Seattle Kraken have loaned forward Shane Wright to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship in Halifax and Moncton.

Wright, 18, is expected to report to Team Canada in Moncton on Thursday, according to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.

The 6-foot centre is fresh off scoring his first NHL goal on Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-2 loss for the Kraken. He has a goal and an assist in eight NHL games this season. He had four goals in five games during a conditioning stint with the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds. 

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Drafted fourth overall by Seattle in June, Wright is the sixth player in Canadian Hockey League history to be granted exceptional status to join the OHL a year early. He won CHL Rookie of the Year in 2020. The Burlington, Ont., product had 32 goals and 62 assists in 63 games with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2021-22. 

Internationally, he captained Canada to gold at the 2021 IIHF U18s, where he was second in tournament scoring with nine goals and 14 points in five games. Wright was named to the 2022 World Juniors team but only played in two games before it was cancelled. He did not participate in the rescheduled tournament in August where Canada won gold. 

The tournament is set to run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Canada kicks off its tournament on Boxing Day against Czechia on TSN at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.

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Palestinian flag waved on pitch as Morocco celebrates historic World Cup win

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Several players of Morocco’s national team unfurled a Palestinian flag on the pitch while celebrating their historic World Cup win over Spain in Qatar on Tuesday.

World Cup quarterfinals: Qualifying teams, fixtures and schedule

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Following a dramatic penalty shootout, Morocco became the first Arab side to make it to the World Cup quarterfinals.

This is the second time Moroccan players have raised the Palestinian flag after winning a match. Morocco’s player Jawad El Yamiq raised the Palestinian flag while celebrating his country’s 2-1 victory over Canada last week.

Moroccan football fans were also seen waving a “Free Palestine” banner during the North African country’s 2-0 victory over Belgium in Group E earlier in the tournament.

Morocco's team makes a group photo on the pitch, holding the Palestinian flag after beating Spain.

Regulations from FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, prohibit the use of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be political, offensive and/or discriminatory in nature.

“The promotion or announcement of political or religious messages or any other political or religious actions, inside or in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, by any means, is strictly prohibited before, during and after matches,” FIFA regulations state.

Israeli journalists experience chilly reception at Qatar World Cup

 

Football authorities have occasionally issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside grounds.

The flag bearing move was hailed by Arabs on social media, as users from Libya, Morroco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia celebrated the Moroccan win.

Videos on social media also show Palestinians celebrating Morocco’s win in the streets of several cities in the West Bank and in Gaza.

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