Abbotsford Canucks won’t host first round playoff series

The Abby Canucks needed one point in their final two games of the season — or Bakersfield to lose their last game — to host their first-round AHL playoff series.

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Despite a late-season surge that put them in the drivers’ seat for AHL Calder Cup playoff seeding, the Abbotsford Canucks won’t host any games in the first round.

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It’s because they dropped two games — badly, though the losses were all that really mattered — to the Manitoba Moose this week and then watched the Bakersfield Condors upset the Stockton Heat on Saturday night, vaulting the Condors and the Colorado Eagles past the Canucks in the AHL’s Pacific Division.

The Canucks went into Thursday’s game in Winnipeg against the Moose needing just one point from their remaining two games. They also faced Manitoba on Saturday to clinch fourth place in the division, which would have seen them host all three games in their first round playoff series against Bakersfield.

If they’d won one of the two games, they’d have finished third in the division, and would have hosted Colorado.

But instead they lost to Manitoba 7-1 and then 6-0, handing the initiative to Bakersfield. It was far from a lock that the Condors were going to beat Stockton: if the Heat had won on Saturday, they’d have finished the season with the best record in the entire AHL.

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The collapse is a tough blow for the Canucks’ organization, which saw their NHL club just miss the playoffs but they still thought they were going to host some AHL playoffs after Abbotsford went on a late-season tear, winning their first nine games in April .

Their big winning streak included two key wins over Bakersfield and the last win was over Stockton.

Now they’ll have to win their first-round series in Bakersfield if they want to host home playoff games, which wouldn’t be on the table until the second round, as the first round series is only played in the arena of the higher -seeded team.

Abbotsford won most of their games missing some key players to Vancouver, with both Nic Petan (Mar. 15) and Sheldon Dries (Apr. 7) recalled in recent weeks and No. 1 goalie Spencer Martin was recalled last week because of injuries in Vancouver .

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Both Petan and Dries were waived Saturday, with the intention, they should clear, to be re-assigned to Abbotsford.

Martin and No. 3 goalie Arturs Silovs, who was recalled earlier this week after Thatcher Demko ran out of steam, were both reassigned outright to Abbotsford, as were forwards Will Lockwood and Vasily Podkolzin.

Lockwood’s status is unclear. He didn’t dress in the last three NHL Canucks games of the season after aggravating an old injury during practice on Monday.

“Everything is fine as far as structure,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said. He didn’t think that it would affect Lockwood’s availability in Abbotsford, though he also admitted he hadn’t asked the training staff.

Podkolzin’s reassignment is a mild surprise. The Canucks had made the Russian eligible for the AHL playoffs at the trade deadline by making a paper transaction, but he’s played so well since then there was some thought from observers that perhaps the Canucks would pull back from their plan to give him a few more games at the end of the season.

When asked about it earlier this week Podkolzin said he looked forward to the challenge.

“I hope I can bring some good hockey to Abbotsford,” he said.

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