Canucks Game Day: What happened in Vegas needs to happen again

‘A nine-game home stand is probably not ideal. We saw a lot of staleness. This trip will help us have that road mentality in play.” — Canucks coach Rick Tocchet

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Vancouver Canucks (46-20-8) at Vegas Golden Knights (41-25-8)

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When and where: Tuesday, 7 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

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TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650

The buzz: Road trips are a grind and there’s seldom time to unwind.

They can be long and draining, but a gruelling six-game sojourn squeezed into 12 days in January brought out the best in the Vancouver Canucks. They went 5-1-1 and the Lotto Line exploded for 27 points in a four-game span, including Elias Pettersson putting up a dozen points (7-5).

The Canucks also went 0-3 on a February trip and 3-0 in another journey earlier this month. However, the eagerness to get out of town after a nine-game home stand over 23 days was evident Sunday.

After grinding out a mediocre 3-2 win over the lowly Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks were ready to pack their bags.

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“Home for three weeks and my kids are at home with a two-week break from school,” lamented Canucks centre J.T. Miller. “I’m ready. Clinching the playoffs (spot) means something because this is part of the culture that you want to get into.”

The road is also good to remedy shortcomings.

“Maybe it’s good that we’re going on the road,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “A nine-game home stand is probably not ideal. We saw a lot of staleness. And sometimes as a coach, you think of what you could have done different.

“This trip will help us have that road mentality in play.”

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Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill makes a save on Elias Pettersson during their March 7 matchup in Las Vegas. Photo by Lucas Peltier /AP

There’s no job jar on the road or distractions to keep the Canucks from sharpening their game for the post-season.

The incentive is to dial the calendar back to earlier in the month when they looked playoff ready with a 2-1 win in Anaheim, 2-1 overtime decision in Los Angeles and a 3-1 triumph in Las Vegas.

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That seems like so long ago.

“We know we have to play better,” added Tocchet. “We’re a playoff team and we have 100 points, but we’ve really got to work on our game. We need some guys to find their game and our team has to find its game.

“We’ll look at that game (Sunday) and how do we get better?” added Tocchet. “You still have to commend the players, who have done a hell of a job to get us to this (playoff) situation.”

The history: Third meeting of the season. The Canucks lost 4-1 at home on Nov. 30 and won 3-1 in Vegas on March 7. Quinn Hughes, Phil Di Giuseppe and Conor Garland scored and Thatcher Demko made 27 saves.

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy tossed the Canucks a lot of bouquets that day: “They checked well. They used everybody. They didn’t give us anything.”

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The hope: Dakota Joshua’s pace and production after missing 18 games with a hand injury continues to inspire. His two goals Sunday came from hustle, positioning and crafty releases. A major pain to play against as a down-low presence on the power play.

The fear: Not starting strong and giving the Golden Knights incentive for revenge and to chase second place in the Pacific Division. The Canucks have scored the most first-period goals, given up the third least.

The top guns: Miller is 10th in NHL scoring with 94 points (35-59), while Pettersson is tied for 13th with 84 (33-51) and Hughes is tied for 15th with 82 points (13-69).

The wounded: Canucks: Thatcher Demko (knee, week-to-week, LTIR), and Elias Lindholm (undisclosed, day-to-day). Golden Knights: Mark Stone (lacerated spleen, IR), Tomas Hertl (lower body, LTIR), Robin Lehner (hip, LTIR), William Carrier (upper body, day-to-day), and Adin Hill (undisclosed, day-to-day).

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The quote: “A little bit more push from some guys. You can’t turn pucks over. Your have to be careful.” — Tocchet on what he didn’t like in Sunday’s win

The lineup: 








The prediction: The Canucks use the road as an elixir to get back to their structure. They grind out a 3-2 win to open a three-game trip.

(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)

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