Canucks-Maple Leafs Preview
The Vancouver Canucks can complete a six-game road trip with a winning record Saturday night, but to do so will likely require winning without their star rookie in Toronto.
The Canucks' 2-0 loss at Montreal on Thursday night not only dropped their record to 3-2 on the road trip, it also cost the team Elias Pettersson. He injured his right knee early in the second period after Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Canadiens pulled him back in an incident that was away from the play. Both fell and there was no penalty called.
Pettersson, who had five goals and an assist in his previous four games -- including two game-winning goals -- is not expected to play Saturday, and there no timetable for his return as he is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Friday.
"I'm walking fine," he told the media in Toronto on Friday. "I feel better today than yesterday, so that's good."
Pettersson has 22 goals and 20 assists in 38 games.
Canucks coach Travis Green said he watched a replay of the incident several times. "Two guys get tangled," Green told the media. "I've watched it a lot of times. It's not a dirty play by their player at all. He gets hooked a little bit. Petey actually pushes back on him a bit in a reverse hit. Two young guys fall to the ice. It's not a penalty."
With Pettersson's injury, the reunited line of Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi was turned to for firepower.
Boeser had 14 shot attempts -- including six stopped by Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and another stopped by a post. Nonetheless, Baertschi felt that the Canucks played well in defeat.
"I thought we did some good things tonight," Baertschi told the media after the game. "Carey played an outstanding game. (Boeser) tried everything. Another night, one or two of those shots go in."
The Maple Leafs (26-12-2) also enter Saturday coming off a loss. Two in a row, in fact. With recently acquired Michael Hutchinson starting in goal, the Maple Leafs could not hold a 2-0 lead and fell 4-3 to the Minnesota Wild in a rare home matinee game on Thursday.
The Maple Leafs, who also lost 4-0 at home to the New York Islanders on Saturday, are also dealing with injuries. No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen was put on injured reserve with a groin injury Thursday. His backup, Garret Sparks, was hit on the mask by a shot during practice Wednesday, placed into concussion protocol and also was unable to play Thursday. It was confirmed that he has a concussion and will not play Saturday, leaving another start to Hutchinson, who was acquired on a Dec. 29 trade with the Florida Panthers.
"I thought he gave us a chance, that's all you can ask of a guy," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of his new goalie. "What was the sequence of events? They called me and told me (Sparks) couldn't go and so we knew (Hutchinson) was going to play. I asked what his first name was, he told me. I asked him what he liked to be called, he said Hutch. I said, 'Have fun.'"
Kasimir Kaskisuo also was called up from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League to serve as backup Thursday. It was not known Friday who would be backup Saturday.
The Maple Leafs outshot the Wild 41-34, including a 19-4 margin in a third period in which they not score.
The Maple Leafs had two first-period goals from Mitch Marner, one just seven seconds into the game and the other at 5:38. They also led 3-2 on William Nylander's second-period goal, his first of the season after a prolonged holdout over his contract.
Toronto felt it could have done a better job after gaining the early lead.
"We could have handled the puck better," Marner said. "We should have got the puck in more. We should have held it a little bit longer in the O-zone, but those are things we've got to learn to be better, and we've got to learn quick. It's coming down to the stretch now and this is when everyone is going to start grinding and playing that lockdown game, so we've got to make sure we're ready for that and we've got to make sure we find ways to score around that."
The Canucks (20-20-4) called up goaltender Thatcher Demko from Utica of the AHL on Friday.
Updated January 4, 2019