Vancouver Canucks (29-11-3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (13-21-9)
When/where: Monday, 10 a.m., Nationwide Arena
TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: Buffalo is famous for its award-winning chicken wings and unpredictable winter weather. The Canucks found out the hard way Sunday that there’s no easy way out of a mammoth blizzard that started to blanket the area Saturday and was still howling the next day.
A travel ban forced the Canucks to go into a holding pattern as they considered options to get to Columbus via a direct, or even a circular route, to play a Monday matinee at 1 p.m. ET. It meant even considering going by bus to Pearson Airport near Toronto and then jetting to Ohio, or having the game postponed until end of the season, if the ban remained in effect throughout Sunday.
They went for the bus option.
As for the game, Rick Tocchet could play either goaltender Monday and expect a good performance. All-Star Weekend bound Thatcher Demko is coming off a 26-save shutout performance Saturday in a 1-0 win over the Sabres.
The stellar Canucks starter is 22-8-1, and of stoppers who have played 30 games this season, only Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets has a better save percentage at .924. Demko is at .919.
Canucks backup Casey DeSmith is 7-3-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average.
The history: First meeting of the season. In 2022-23, the Canucks went 1-1-0 against the Blue Jackets. They lost 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 18 at Rogers Arena and won 5-2 in Columbus on Jan. 27. At home, Vladislav Gavrikov scored at 3:21 of overtime as the Blue Jackets rallied for their first win of the season. Bo Horvat scored twice for the Canucks, who dropped to 0-3-1 to start the season.
In Columbus, Elias Pettersson scored twice and Horvat had four assists with Tocchet at the coaching helm for his third game after replacing the fired Bruce Boudreau.
The hope: Improving penalty kill makes a difference. The Canucks killed all three Sabre power-plays Saturday in a 1-0 win at Buffalo and are on a roll with four perfect kill nights in their last six outings. The pairings of Teddy Blueger-Dakota Joshua, Nils Aman-Pius Suter and J.T. Miller-Pettersson have formed formidable pairings.
The fear: Afternoon games often throw mind and body out of sync. Players are creatures of preparation habit and just trying to get to Columbus from snow-laden Buffalo ensured they’ll probably start slow Monday.
The top guns: The Canucks continue to make an impact in the NHL scoring race. Miller was fifth with 58 points (19-39) entering league play Sunday. Pettersson was sixth with 57 points (22-35) and Quinn Hughes 11th with 51 points (11-40), which leads all blueliners.
The wounded: Canucks: Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Blue Jackets: Zach Werenski (ankle, IR), Patrik Laine (fractured clavicle, IR), Boone Jenner (fractured jaw, IR), Nick Blankenburg (upper body, IR).
The quote: “A mucky type of game — which is kind of good. I love when we have these types of games and you see the resolve.” — Rick Tocchet following Saturday win in Buffalo.
The prediction: The Lotto Line has something to say and the Canucks improve to 27-0-0 when leading after two periods in a 5-2 triumph to end superlative trip 6-1-0.
(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.)
Recommended from Editorial
Canucks Coffee: The kids are into it and that means big things for future fandom
Call it the Canuck-Star game: five players and coach Rick Tocchet named as All-Stars
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.