SUNRISE — Due to a number of positive Covid tests as well as stricter rules in Canada, the Vancouver Canucks will play their first game since New Year’s Day on Tuesday when they visit the Florida Panthers — although what their lineup will look like is still a bit of a mystery.
Just being able to get back on the ice and play a meaningful game is exciting to a Vancouver team that has got some pep in their step since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench.
Boudreau, who left his television gig to take over the Canucks, has helped oversee a resurgence in Vancouver as the Canucks have won seven of eight since Travis Green was fired on Dec. 5.
The Canucks have gone from last place in the Pacific Division to within shouting distance of Calgary for third place.
Vancouver headed to South Florida four points back of Los Angeles for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
The former coach of the Capitals, Ducks and Wild — who, as a member of the real-life Johnstown Jets, appeared in Slap Shot — currently has the hottest team in the west.
The Panthers are no slouches themselves.
Florida has won five of six coming out of the extended holiday break with four consecutive wins on home ice.
In Sunrise, the Panthers have been the best home team in the league at 18-3-0.
Brock Boeser, who met the Canucks in Florida due to Covid protocols, skated with his team on Monday. Vancouver moves on to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
“We’re facing some of the best teams in hockey, especially these first two games,” Boeser said. “It’s a big test for our group, but it’s a test we need, I think. We’ve been playing such good hockey, you want to play the best and beat the best.”
— Brunette said that Sergei Bobrovsky would start against the Canucks on Tuesday.
— Vancouver and Florida are both in the final year of having its salary cap taxed due to Roberto Luongo’s retirement in 2019. Florida is getting tagged for $1.1 million; Vancouver just north of $3 million.
— Both Sam Bennett (suspension) and Sam Reinhart (Covid) will play for the Panthers on Tuesday.
Mason Marchment took part in the morning skate but will take the night off.
— Juho Lammikko, traded to the Canucks from Florida prior to the start of the regular season, has a goal and three points in 27 games this season.
Olli Juolevi, the fifth overall pick of the 2016 draft by Vancouver, appears to be back in the lineup against his former team. He was benched for the third period Thursday in Dallas and scratched Saturday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
VANCOUVER CANUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- NHL Betting Odds from FanDuel: Florida favored (PL -1.5 +116) — (ML -230) — U/O 6.5
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM, SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Vancouver leads 18-10-3, 6 ties
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 98 Maxim Mamin
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 20 Aleksi Heponiemi
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
4 Olli Juolevi // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
35 Jonas Johansson
Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Joe Thornton, Owen Tippett
Taxi squad: None
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
Covid Protocol: Mason Marchment, Spencer Knight, Patric Hornqvist
PROJECTED VANCOUVER CANUCKS LINEUP
92 Vasily Podkolzin // 9 J.T. Miller // 6 Brock Boeser
70 Tanner Pearson // 40 Elias Pettersson // 21 Nils Hoglander
18 Jason Dickinson // 53 Bo Horvat // 8 Conor Garland
15 Matthew Highmore // 91 Juho Lammikko // 64 Tyler Motte
23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson // 57 Tyler Myers
43 Quinn Hughes // 2 Luke Schenn
44 Kyle Burroughs // 5 Tucker Poolman
35 Thatcher Demko
41 Jaroslav Halak