Just 24 hours after the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors electrified the crowd at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks look to do the same as they host the San Jose Sharks in their fourth preseason game. This is the team’s second home game in the exhibition season; the Canucks beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 in a highly-entertaining affair last Wednesday night.
This is the second meeting between the clubs in the past week; the Sharks defeated the Canucks 3-2 in overtime last Tuesday night in San Jose.
Venue: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
Time: 5 pm
TV: Sportsnet 360
Radio: TSN 1040
What everybody is talking about: Who’s on first?
Or more accurately: who’s on fourth? As in the fourth line.
Tonight’s game marks the exact midway point of the Canucks’ seven-game preseason schedule. The most intriguing battle seems to be for the three spots on the fourth line.
I wrote last week that the Canucks seem to have eight forward spots locked up: the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jannik Hansen, Alex Burrows, Bo Horvat, and Sven Baertschi. Let’s presume – for argument’s sake – that the ninth spot goes to Anton Rodin or Jake Virtanen (although there are many people who believe that Virtanen would be better served starting the year off in Utica. I just happen NOT to be one of those people).
I think the battle for the fourth line spots is boiling down to five players: Markus Granlund, Emerson Etem, Derek Dorsett, Brendan Gaunce. and Jack Skille.
Markus Granlund had a strong game against the Flames on Friday night, leading all forwards with just under 20 minutes of ice time. He looked confident on the ice and it seems like the centre spot is his to lose.
Enter Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce has played all three Canucks preseason games thus far and he has looked good. I expect him to start the season as a winger on the fourth line.
That leaves Derek Dorsett, Emerson Etem, and Jack Skille. Dorsett will likely get the nod as the Canucks will need his toughness in the lineup. Etem will need to show more and show it quickly, while Skille has been a nice surprise in camp…but it might not be enough.
What nobody is talking about: Virtanen’s shoulder injury
There hasn’t been a lot of new information regarding sophomore Jake Virtanen’s shoulder injury suffered last week in San Jose. At first, head coach Willie Desjardins said that he didn’t expect Virtanen to be out long. Then, Desjardins backtracked a bit and said they were getting a second opinion. That might not be good.
If Virtanen’s injury is serious, it will raise fear and doubts in the fan base, especially considering that Virtanen is expected to be a difference-maker this season.
There is one small silver lining that would come from Virtanen starting the season on the injured list: it would in essence buy the club an extra roster spot until Virtanen comes back. Thus, the Canucks could keep a forward around who they might not have.
It’s too early to tell right now, and we’re expecting an update on Virtanen’s status sometime on Thursday.
Gaunce plays in his fourth straight preseason game tonight. He’ll be between Etem and Dorsett. Other notables include Olli Juolevi and Troy Stecher on the blue line.
Here are the expected line combinations tonight:
The Canucks roster seems stronger on paper than that of the Sharks. Look for a Canucks 4-2 victory.