VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks expected to miss top center Bo Horvat when he went down with an injury.
Now, the Canucks are finding out just how much they need him.
Heading into a home game against the San Jose Sharks on Friday, the Canucks (14-14-4) have lost four straight and have been outscored 20-5. Friday’s contest offers the Canucks a chance at redemption after they were thrashed 7-1 by the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
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“I don’t care what the score is,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “If we’re up or down, you still have to go out there and make the plays you need to make. We didn’t do that.”
It was Vancouver’s most lopsided loss since a 9-1 setback at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 15, 2014.
“We’re not going to win any games when we let in that many goals,” Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler said. “We have to make sure we play strongly, strong defensively. We know we need to score goals to win, but it can’t cost us defensively.”
Edler said the Canucks have to regroup — and stay positive — when they face the Sharks (17-10-3), who will be playing the second of back-to-back road games after defeating the Flames 3-2 on Thursday night.
“You don’t have a lot of choices,” Edler said. “You have to keep it positive and look forward to the next game. We have to win a game here. It’s not going to come easy. It’s going to be a battle to get those two points, but we’re going to look forward to the next game.”
The losing streak began after Horvat suffered a fractured foot against Toronto on Dec. 5. The center, who is out 4-6 weeks, played a multitude of offensive and defensive roles with the Canucks. Sedin has performed well in his place. And rookie Brock Boeser continues to shine; he netted his 16th goal of the season against Nashville.
To make matters worse, defenseman Chris Tanev, who plays on the top pairing and logs special-teams time, appears likely to miss Friday’s game after he left Wednesday’s nightmare following a hit by Austin Watson.
Tanev’s injury was not disclosed as the Canucks had a day off Thursday, but Vancouver called up defenseman Ashton Sautner from Utica of the American Hockey League. He has yet to play an NHL game, spending the past two-plus seasons with Utica after going undrafted and signing with the Canucks in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Sharks enjoyed some relief from their injury woes Thursday as top-six winger Joonas Donskoi returned to action and scored the winning goal and added an assist.
“It was hard, to be honest, at the beginning,” said Donskoi, who missed six games with an undisclosed injury. “It’s never easy to come back after you’ve been out for a while. I think I felt better as the game went along.”
The Sharks have earned points in four straight games.
Coach Pete DeBoer will go with starter Martin Jones after backup Aaron Dell picked up his first win against the Flames.
Dell hails from Airdrie, Alberta, located a short distance outside Calgary’s northern city limits. DeBoer wanted to give Dell a chance to enjoy playing before family and friends.
Accordingly, he wanted to rest Jones, who is from the suburb of North Vancouver, B.C., and treat him to the opportunity to play before his friends and family on Friday.
“I think these guys are all still kids at heart, and they don’t get back here very often and they all have friends,” DeBoer said. “And, everyone wants to play in front of their family, if they can.”