Vancouver Canucks: 4 Questions They Still Have to Answer This Preseason
The Vancouver Canucks are in Anaheim tonight for a preseason match up with the Ducks. Tonight’s game will be the first one this preseason where Vancouver actually ices a line up that resembles an NHL team.
So far the Canucks have been playing the balance of what will be the Chicago Wolves roster along with some aging veterans trying to stick with a team one last time.
Time for that is over as the regular season is approaching.
Tonight will be the 2011 debut for Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Sami Salo, Mikael Samuelsson and Roberto Luongo.
Despite their roster being mostly in place, there are a couple of questions and things to accomplish with their remaining preseason games.
1. Who Is Playing on the Second Line?
Nick Didlick/Getty Images
One of the questions for the Canucks this offseason was who was going to play on the wings for Ryan Kesler?
Last year’s playoffs exposed a lack of scoring depth on the second line. Kesler was great, but he was doing it by himself for the most part.
Despite Kesler being out while he recovers from hip surgery, the search for his line mates starts tonight. Tonight Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson will be on the wing for the second line.
Those two will be the leaders in the club house for the spots, but there are others in the running. Chris Higgins will get his shot and there is an outside chance that Jannik Hansen could work his way up there.
It will be nice to see those guys get a shot of playing together on the second line before the season starts.
2. What Will Happen with Cody Hodgson?
Harry How/Getty Images
Cody Hodgson has had a rough time getting his NHL career on track. He has suffered from some freak injuries and has a stacked roster of centers ahead of him.
With Kesler out he will get a shot to centre the second line. This try out begins tonight as he will be in the middle on a line with Sturm and Sameulsson.
This will give him a shot to play on a scoring line as opposed to the third or fourth line duty he as been limited to so far in his short lived NHL stints. There has been a lot of made about Hodgson’s future and this preseason will help clarify where he will end up this season.
If he does end up back in the AHL at some point this season, fans should not read too much into that as he still very young. But, with a good showing he could land a role in the Canucks line up or even possibly trade bait.
3. What Will the Fourth Line Look Like?
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images
You can tell a team is pretty well stacked if the biggest unknown they have is the make up of the fourth line.
The potential fourth liners for Vancouver have already been given a lot of ice time in the preseason so far.
Max Lapierre will be the centre and has proved to be an excellent trade deadline move last season. But who will play with him?
The leaders so far are Mark Mancari and Mike Duco.
Both Mancari and Duco are big and play with a physical presence, something that Vancouver has lacked over the past years. If these three end up being the regular fourth line the Canucks will have a bona-fide pest line.
Lapierre is already one of the league’s most annoying players and Duco has shown he is not afraid to mix it up. Macari is not known for dropping the gloves but he has a scoring touch.
In 56 games last year in the AHL he scored 32 goals and had 64 points. He has shown a scoring touch so far this preseason and could be a diamond in the rough for the Canucks.
4. Can the Canucks Get Their Groove Back?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Last year the Canucks were hitting on ally cylinders as they stormed through the regular season and playoffs. Can they recapture that magic this year?
For the past few years the Canucks have been notorious slow starters. Their record in October the past four years is barely above .500. Will they be able to hit the ground running this season?
They have some injuries that may make that hard to do and their regulars are just now getting game action.
It will be interesting to see how much rust the Canucks regulars show in this last handful of games before Oct. 6 rolls around.
It all begins tonight as the Canucks make their final preparations for the 2011 season.