Tired Canucks return home to face Senators
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks will test their early-season fatigue levels when they host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the Senators (3-2-0-0) will attempt to adapt quickly to playing in Western Canada after a long flight -- and overcome repeated failure at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks (4-1-0-1) will play their third game in four nights while trying to overcome two losses in California, to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. Sunday's 4-2 setback in Anaheim was Vancouver's first loss in regulation time after the first five games involved overtime or a shootout.
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins was hoping that the losses were due more to fatigue than a downturn in play after his team reeled off four straight wins to start the season.
"I thought we were tired as a group," Desjardins told Post Media after Sunday's loss to the Ducks. "I thought our (defensemen) were tired. L.A. is a big, heavy team and they might have wore a little bit out on our (defense), I think."
After a team day off Monday, the defense crew will have some refreshment available Tuesday. On Monday, the Canucks called up rookie defensemen Troy Stecher from Utica of the AHL. Stecher, a native of the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C., who played three seasons at the University of North Dakota, turned heads in the preseason with his strong play.
He showed offensive flair and the ability to move the puck quickly out of the defensive zone. Desjardins admitted Stecher "threw a wrench" into final roster selection plans. Stecher was sent down largely because, as a rookie, he did not have to clear waivers to be demoted -- and other veterans did. Although he was expected to be back with Vancouver at some point this season, Stecher has arrived sooner than expected, possibly because fellow rearguard Nikita Tryamkin's days with the Canucks are limited.
Tryamkin, who saw action with Vancouver last season but is still classified as a rookie, has a clause in his contract that requires him to be returned to the Kontinental Hockey League instead of being sent to the minors. The 22-year-old Russian, who stands six-foot-seven and weighs 220 pounds, has been a healthy scratch in all six of Vancouver's games to date, and the Canucks have attempted to send him to Utica, but he has refused to go.
"There is no possibility that he will play in the American Hockey League," Canucks general manager Jim Benning told Post Media over the weekend. "We've explored that. We've talked to him and his agent and he has said no."
Stecher, 22, has recorded one assist and two penalty minutes in four games with Utica this season. The Canucks also promoted winger Jason Megna on Monday. Megna, 26, who signed as a free agent in the offseason after splitting last season with the New York Rangers and their Hartford farm team, is expected to fill in for Alex Burrows, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury. Burrows and fellow winger Derek Dorsett (shoulder) missed Sunday's game in Anaheim due to health woes, forcing the Canucks to use defenseman Alex Biega as a forward.
While the Canucks were still in California, the Senators arrived a day early in Vancouver in a bid to reverse some misfortune in Canada's westernmost city. The Sens have not won at Rogers Arena since March 13, 2004 -- although they did post a victory next door at B.C. Place Stadium in the Heritage Classic in 2014, when former Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo stewed on the bench as a backup in what would be his final game with the team before a trade to Florida.
The Sens hit town two days early -- instead of the usual one -- in a bid to reverse the bad history.
"We know that we can't just say, 'OK guys let's try to get over the time change.' It's something you have to live (with) and every day you have ahead of the game makes a difference," coach Guy Boucher was quoted by Post Media after a practice Monday.
"I believe this is going to be enough. The practice was good. The guys were intense, focused and we tackled everything we wanted to do. So I think we got everything we needed out of the last few days. We had a day off, a hard-working day and now we have to be ready to start on time."
In addition, Boucher has disrupted all of his line combinations to help rejuvenate the Sens following their 4-1 home loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"I was just trying out a few things," Boucher told Post Media. "We're on the road, so we don't have the matchups we want, so I'm just trying to balance things out so we get good matchups with the four lines."