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Bo Horvat is being traded to Seattle. Or is it Colorado or Minnesota?
The ongoing rumours swirling around the Vancouver Canucks captain could easily send him off the competitive rails and into self-pity mode.
After all, amid all the uncertainty, Rick Tocchet represents his third head coach in the last 13 months and that’s enough to leave any leader wondering about the coming days and weeks from personal and team perspectives.
“I can’t look at that right now, it’s doing whatever I can to help this team win,” Horvat said Tuesday. “It’s just being dedicated to our structure. If we dig in with our systems, then we’re going to have a lot of success.
“We can be a little tighter in the defensive zone, stopping in the right areas, and not blowing the zone and cheating for offence.”
To his credit, the 30-goal centre will approach the second half of back-to-back games on Wednesday in Seattle with professionalism and personal pride. He vows to play hard for Tocchet, just like he did for Bruce Boudreau, Travis Green and Willie Desjardins.
That level of commitment will be vital against the Kraken, who have taken the National Hockey League by storm.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks
7 p.m., Rogers Arena. TV: TSN. Radio: AM 650.
The second-year franchise that has morphed from 27-49-6 — and plenty of expansion teething problems — is putting a serious bite on a Western Conference playoff spot to gain league-wide recognition and awareness.
Why can’t that kind of quick progress happen here?
“Exactly,” said Horvat. “Not to take anything away from Seattle at all, but they don’t have a (Connor) McDavid or a (Nathan) MacKinnon or anybody like that. They’re all just really committed to their system and work really hard and work for each other.
“That’s something that can be accomplished here.”
The Kraken are fourth in goals per game (3.61), but their power-play percentage is 21st (20.3) and the penalty kill is second worst (70.5). And they don’t have a player in the top 80 of league scoring. Winger Andre Burakovsky ranks 84th with 38 points (13-25) through 45 games.
However, what the Kraken have is balance.
Seven players have hit double digits in goals. Former Canucks centre Jared McCann is on a heater with a club-leading 22 goals and has scored six goals in his last 11 games. Rookie centre Matty Beniers looks like the real deal with 17 goals and winger Daniel Sprong has 15.
What Tocchet has inherited is a work in progress.
There’s not enough time this week to hit hard on systems. He would love to run a mini-camp next week, but he can’t because of a schedule break. So in the very short term it’s about building relationships and taking what he can from back-to-back games to get an early read on his roster.
“You really test the habits of guys,” said Tocchet. “They do it in the first game, can they do it in the second? It’s a short amount of time, but that’s where the mental toughness comes in. We need you in this spot, can you do it?
“It’s hard to do it every time. The bad changes and puck tracking are non-negotiable for me. We have to work on that.”
One thing he’s already convinced of is that Horvat’s attitude and application have come as advertised. A meeting confirmed that.
“The first thing that came out of his mouth was, regardless, he’s locked in,” said Tocchet. “I’m your captain right now. When he said that, you know he’s a character guy. I’ve been in situations, and everybody has, when you have the trade deadline and everybody is on pins and needles.
“You have to block it out. He’s having a great year and is a big part of the team right now.”
Here’s what awaits the Canucks, who start a nine-day break Saturday and return Feb. 6 at New Jersey:
Canucks at Kraken
When and where: Wednesday at 7 p.m. | Climate Pledge Arena.
TV: SN Pacific | Radio: AM 650.
Why watch: Structure over scoring spree
In a wild 6-5 shootout home-ice win over the Kraken on Dec. 22, the Canucks coughed up a gift goal to open scoring and two more in a span of 10 seconds in the second stanza. For that generosity, the Canucks should have received their third straight home-ice setback. But they prevailed on Elias Pettersson’s shootout winner.
Who to watch: Centre/left-winger Jared McCann
Yes, he can. McCann had 27 goals last season, but trailed off in the second half, and is already up to 22 in tracking toward a career season.
Blue Jackets at Canucks
When and where: Friday at 7 p.m. | Rogers Arena.
TV: SN Pacific | Radio: AM 650.
Why watch: Is CBJ thinking Connor Bedard?
The Blue Jackets and Ducks were tied for the worst point total in the league Tuesday with a paltry 31 apiece through 47 games. If CBJ is in total tank mode to be in NHL Draft contention for North Van phenom Bedard, it didn’t look like it Monday in Calgary.
The Flames needed overtime to prevail 4-3 to put the Blue Jackets at 1-3-1 in their last five outings.
Who to watch: Left-winger Patrik Laine
The mercurial talent had a goal and two assists Monday, has six points (2-4) during a three-game points streak and a dozen points (5-7) in his previous eight games. He is second on his club with 28 points (14-14) in 32 games, behind Johnny Gaudreau (13-33-46), and had a hat trick on Jan. 14 at Detroit.
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