Canucks host Coyotes in Sedins’ final home game
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs several weeks ago, but they still have something to play for Thursday night.
“We definitely want to make their last game here memorable and (we) want to try and get a win for them,” rookie Canucks winger Adam Gaudette told reporters Wednesday after an optional practice.
A sellout crowd is expected for the second straight game, with tickets again fetching premium prices, after the Sedins announced their retirement Monday. Daniel Sedin told reporters that Thursday’s contest will stand out more in their minds than the boisterous scene Tuesday, when the Canucks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout in which both Sedins participated.
“It’s a chance for us to thank the fans, it’s more that than anything else,” Daniel Sedin said. “Time flies. It will be over before we know it. We’re going to enjoy it and treat it like a normal game. (Thursday) will be more emotional. I think that’s when you realize … you’ve probably taken your last steps on the ice. It will be special.”
Several tributes are planned for the 37-year-olds during the game as their parents, two older brothers and other friends and former teammates join the crowd.
Among other special happenings, the club’s nightly 50/50 will start at C$400,000 and lights outside Rogers Arena and within Vancouver’s city limits will shine blue and yellow (Sweden’s colors) in tribute to the Swedish siblings.
The Sedins’ teammates plan to enjoy the occasion, too.
“It’s the end of an era,” center Bo Horvat, who is a strong candidate to replace Henrik Sedin as captain next season, told reporters. “It’s the end of an amazing career for those guys.
“To be part of it is really special for me.”
Although the Canucks and Coyotes will miss the playoffs, the game — the second-last for each club — holds some significance in the standings. With a win, Arizona can move a point ahead of the Canucks and leave Vancouver last in the Western Conference. Thursday’s result could also affect the teams’ 2018 draft position, depending on how lottery balls fall.
The Canucks and Coyotes have been playing well, much to the chagrin of fans who want them to tank during the stretch run and improve their draft hopes. Vancouver has won five of seven games, while Arizona has two straight victories and six in the past eight outings.
The Canucks might need to worry about one of their former players. Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, who was drafted by the Canucks and spent most of his time in their farm system, has been on a scoring tear lately.
He scored the winning goal and added an assist in Arizona’s 4-1 victory over Calgary on Tuesday and has 10 goals since the all-star break — after scoring only once in his first 42 games.
“I’m playing a lot more confident — using my skating, using my shot,” the 28-year-old, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, told reporters. “(I) had a rough year last year with injuries and then sitting out (as a healthy scratch.) So the beginning of the year, I was still trying to get back to my game, but I think I’m back there now.”
Connauton might see more playing time than usual Thursday. Fellow Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who was injured in Calgary, will not be in the lineup. The Coyotes recalled Dakota Mermis from the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League to fill in for him.
Chychrun suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury when he was tripped from behind by Calgary’s Michael Frolik. Arizona coach Rick Tocchet took exception to Frolik’s action.
“I know he’s not a dirty player, but it’s a dirty play,” Tocchet told reporters. “I don’t like it at all.”