Canucks Game Day: Kids to get another crack, Luongo to start, Zack back with Sedins against Oilers
VANCOUVER — New Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella promised “the kids” would receive ample opportunity to show their stuff early in the pre-season, and he is following through on that.
First-round picks Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk will all be in the lineup again tonight when the Canucks face the Edmonton Oilers in their second exhibition game (7 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040). They are the only four who played Monday as well.
The most notable change, at least based on the morning skate, will see the 6-2, 220-pound Gaunce skate on left wing (rather than centre) alongside Burnaby's Mike Santorelli and 25-year-old career minor-leaguer Brandon DeFazio. Gaunce played half a game on left wing at last week's prospects tournament in Penticton.
“If we're doing that in the pre-game skate, I'm guessing I'm going to play left wing tonight,” said Gaunce, 19, who must make the Canucks or be returned to junior. “I want to show I can be versatile. I'm going to have to play well and I'm going to have to play well at left wing.”
Tortorella confirmed the move is being made to test Gaunce's ability to play multiple positions.
“It will give him a better opportunity to be here as far as utility situations,” said the coach. “If you can play different positions and do it effectively, that certainly helps.”
The other Canuck lines, again based on the morning skate, will see the Sedin twins with Zack Kassian, Shinkaruk with Brad Richardson and Jannik Hansen, and Horvat centring for Jensen and 31-year-old journeyman Colin Stuart.
Roberto Luongo is scheduled to play the first two periods with Swedish rookie Joacim Eriksson coming in for the third. It will be Eriksson's first test in a true NHL pre-season game. He played three games at the prospects tourney.
“It's going to be fun and I'm very excited,” said Eriksson, a southpaw. “I am not nervous yet. Maybe later. This morning I am very calm. I wanted to focus on the practice. I haven't thought about the game too much.”
The defence pairings will see Jason Garrison with Kevin Bieksa, John Negrin alongside Chris Tanev, and Peter Andersson with Patrick Mullen.
For Kassian, tonight's outing will be a continuation of his audition with the Sedins, They have been together throughout training camp, an experiment that everyone surrounding the club wishes to succeed.
“I played with them a bit last year and when we played together, we played well,” said Kassian, 22. “Obviously my consistency needs to improve. I'm going into the pre-season with the main focus of being consistent and being the same player night in and night out. If I can do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Tortorella will again sit atop to evaluate his personnel but indicated he would like to see the Canucks have the puck a little more. They were outshot by a whopping 42-16 margin in their pre-season opener Monday, a 3-2 loss to San Jose.
“I'm still evaluating but I want us to play well,” Torts said. “We want to win the game. But I need, to be fair, to watch individuals, too. Hopefully both of them come together tonight ... the individuals play well and we win the hockey game.”
The Oilers, who have already played three games (1-1-1), will have a decent lineup for tonight's game. Among their notables in town are Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, David Perron, Nail Yakupov, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, and 2013 first-round pick Darnell Nurse.
ICE CHIPS: Injured Canucks winger David Booth skated with the non-playing group Wednesday morning after being cleared to practise... Defenceman Alex Edler, left-winger Chris Higgins and centre Jordan Schroeder are both sitting out for a second straight pre-season game. “You shouldn't read anything into Schrades not playing,” said Tortorella. “He will get his opportunity.”
• CANUCKS UNITS (based on game-day skate):
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