Canucks Game Day: Kesler back from surgery, Tanev back to trigger transition


Chris Tanev must strip pucks and trigger transition game Tuesday.

Chris Tanev must strip pucks and trigger transition game Tuesday.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, The Province

More on This Story


The Vancouver Canucks play their last home game for three weeks tonight as they host the Anaheim Ducks (TV: Sportsnet. Radio: Sportsnet 650, 7 p.m.). They open a five-game road trip on Saturday in Toronto that takes them up to the all-star break, which is followed by a two-game trip to Edmonton and Winnipeg. After tonight the Canucks won’t see Rogers Arena again until Jan. 23.

Ryan Kesler versus Chris Tanev

The former Canucks centre has played three games since returning from major hip surgery. He had two assists Sunday in a 5-2 win over Arizona and also fought Matthew Tkachuk on Friday in a 2-1 win at Calgary. A dominant shutdown centre with a nose for the net, he’ll be a load to handle down low. Tanev, who missed seven games with a groin strain, will be tested to strip pucks, be positionally sound and trigger the transition.

1. Don’t get beat up in circle

The Canucks are ranked 26th in face-off efficiency, and without the injured Bo Horvat (52.4 per cent) and Brandon Sutter (51.6), they have relied on Sam Gagner (48.3) and Henrik Sedin (45.3) to take most draws. Markus Granlund (40.8) isn’t an answer, but Nic Dowd (50.0) and the recalled Michael Chaput (54.5) offer hope. The Ducks sport the 14th-ranked face-off efficiency, but that will increase with the return of Kesler. Antoine Vermette is third in the NHL (59.2) and Kesler (57.1) is operating at the same efficiency he had last season (57.4). The Ducks won 41 of 60 draws Sunday. Vermette went 13-for-18, Kesler 12-for-17 and Adam Henrique 8-for-12.

2. Focus on stronger forecheck

Forecheck. Back pressure. Gap control. You name it and everybody has a theory about how easily the Kings escaped their zone Saturday in a 4-3 win. The Canucks are at their best when pressuring and pinning teams in their own zone, frustrating them and pouncing on turnovers. That didn’t happen Saturday: “A couple of times, I dove in on a D-man rushing the puck at their blue-line and all he does is make a simple pass by me and I don’t get a body on him and they’ve got four guys rushing the puck,” said Dowd. “We didn’t get a lot of O-zone pressure and they come out easy.”

3. Boeser Watch: How much ice?

Ask any player and he’ll pine for more playing time. And a 20-year-old is going to eat up those minutes, but Brock Boeser logged a whopping, career-high 23:47 on Saturday. His previous high was 21:09 on Dec. 21 at San Jose — he’s averaging 16:41 — and you can understand double-shifting the hotshot, Calder Trophy-contending rookie in pushing for the equalizer Saturday. But it’s a double-edged sword. Too much ice can hamper effectiveness and bring bad habits. “I probably played him too much,” said Canucks coach Travis Green.

4. Virtanen must take direct route

Jake Virtanen is getting better at getting to the net — and not going around it — on those bold rushes that can result in drawing a penalty, raising havoc or scoring. He did it Saturday by staying in the play and outmuscling a defender. “I’ve seen the ice start to open up when I drive the net and I’m trying to use that more often,” said Virtanen. “The game is a lot about speed and if I can get a guy to haul me down, that’s big for us.”

5. Where’s the ‘O’ support system?

Something is really missing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin being aligned with Loui Eriksson. The right winger has gone 13 games without a goal. He didn’t have a shot against the Kings and committed a turnover. Being strong defensively and on the PK isn’t good enough.


Thomas Vanek-Sam Gagner-Brock Boeser

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson

Nikolay Goldobin-Markus Granlund-Jake Virtanen

Brendan Gaunce-Nic Dowd-Reid Boucher (Michael Chaput)

Defence pairings

Alex Edler-Troy Stecher

Michael Del Zotto-Chris Tanev

Derrick Pouliot-Erik Gudbranson

Starting goalie: Anders Nilsson

Sick bay

Bo Horvat (foot)

Sven Baertschi (jaw)

Brandon Sutter (upper body)


Antoine Vermette-Ryan Getzlaf-Rickard Rakell

Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie-Adam Henrique-Ondrej Kase

Chris Wagner-Derek Grant-Logan Shaw

Defence pairings

Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson

Cam Fowler-Kevin Bieksa

Francois Beauchemin-Brandon Montour

Starting goalie: Ryan Miller

Sick bay

Corey Perry (leg)

Patrick Eaves (autoimmune disorder)

Mike Liambas (leg)


Canucks: 21.2% (7th)

Ducks: 17.1% (21st)


Canucks: 77.0% (28th)

Ducks: 82.3% (11th)


Canucks: 27th

Ducks: 16th

Chris Tanev must strip pucks and trigger transition game Tuesday.

Chris Tanev must strip pucks and trigger transition game Tuesday.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, The Province

Chris Tanev must strip pucks and trigger transition game Tuesday.
Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk, right, fights with Anaheim Ducks centre Ryan Kesler during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.
Sam Gagner has a 48.3 per cent face office record this season for the Canucks.
Phillip Danault of the Canadiens tries to corral Canucks centre Nic Dowd.
Brock Boeser played a whopping 23:47 Saturday and Travis Green admitted it was a too much ice for the rookie.
Jake Virtanen has been going to the net more and it's been paying off for the young winger.
Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (33) and Daniel Sedin (22) leave the ice following their team's 7-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
Your voice