Revitalized Canucks set to face slumping Sharks

National Sports

Amid their own recent COVID-19 concerns, as the NHL grapples with player availability because of the virus, the Vancouver Canucks continue to thrive under new coach Bruce Boudreau.

Meanwhile, a lack of offense remains an issue for the struggling San Jose Sharks.

The visiting Canucks can remain undefeated with Boudreau in charge by extending their season-high winning streak to six games Thursday night against the Sharks.

Vancouver went 6-14-2 over its first 22 games before winning seven of the last eight. After firing coach Travis Green – plus general manager Jim Benning — and installing the veteran Boudreau behind the bench on Dec. 5, the Canucks have totaled 16 goals during their 5-0-0 stretch.

After rallying from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win 4-3 over Columbus on Tuesday, Vancouver tries to win six straight for the first time since a seven-game run from Dec. 19, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020.

“I just think we believe in each other,” said Vancouver’s Bo Horvat, whose second goal Tuesday broke a 3-all tie with 58.8 seconds remaining in regulation. “A lot of guys are playing good hockey.

“Obviously, there’s just new life, a new energy in the room and it’s showing on the ice.”

Perhaps the only thing that can derail the Canucks at the moment is the lingering pandemic. Vancouver defensemen Luke Schenn and Brad Hunt, as well as forward Juho Lammikko, were placed in league protocol before Tuesday’s contest, and fellow defenseman Tucker Poolman was taken out early in the first period for the same reason.

The Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes each had recent games postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

“It’s scary,” said Horvat, who has three goals and four assists over the last eight games, according to Vancouver’s The Province. “And I mean, it just feels like deja vu all over again.

“Obviously, the safety of the players is what comes first, and so they’ve got to take priority.”

The Sharks have no current COVID issues after dealing with issues in late October, but have lost four of six following a three-game winning streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 2.

In a game in which all the scoring came in the third period, San Jose fell 3-1 to Seattle on Tuesday. Logan Couture scored his ninth goal for the Sharks, who have recorded two or fewer goals 10 times while splitting their last 14 contests.

“Any time you’re not scoring a goal until you pull the goalie, it’s going to be a tough way to win,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “You almost have to play perfect on the other side of the puck.

After Jaroslav Halak shook off a rough first period to stop 20 shots for his first Vancouver victory on Tuesday, the Sharks could have an even tougher time if Thatcher Demko is in the Canucks’ net. Demko has stopped 128 of 133 shots during his four-game winning streak.

Couture has five points in four games, and 20 goals with 20 assists in 41 career contests versus Vancouver. Teammate James Reimer stopped 27 of 29 shots versus Seattle and has a 1.26 goals-against average with a .961 save percentage in his last four starts. Backup Adin Hill has allowed 11 goals over his last three starts.

The Canucks have won four of the last five meetings with San Jose, but this will be the first game between the teams since Vancouver’s 5-2 road victory on Jan. 29, 2020.

–Field Level Media

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