Vancouver Canucks looking for road wins to claw out clear playoff position

The tie between the Colorado Avalanche and Canucks will be broken Saturday when the teams meet in Denver

Heading into the back half of the hockey season, the Vancouver Canucks know each game will carry a little extra weight.

Vancouver (23-22-6) sat just outside of a Western Conference wild card spot heading into Friday’s games, tied with the Colorado Avalanche in points but having played one more game.

The standings are “definitely motivating” as the Canucks return from the all-star break and bye week, head coach Travis Green said after practice Thursday.

“At the beginning of the year, we said we wanted to play meaningful games down the stretch and that’s what we’re in the middle of right now,” he said.

The tie between the Avs and Canucks will be broken Saturday when the teams meet in Denver, kicking off a four-game road swing for Vancouver.

It’s a trip that centre Bo Horvat said will be huge for the group.

“We can either climb the ladder or go the opposite way. And we want to keep climbing, get points and stay in the playoff race,” he said. “These are meaningful games and if we want to make the playoffs, we’ve got to go on a bit of a run here.”

Vancouver’s lone representative at all-star weekend agreed.

“It’s really important to get a good start after this break,” said Elias Pettersson, the team’s star rookie. “We know we’re in a great spot to push for a playoff spot and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 20-year-old leads the Canucks in scoring with 23 goals and 22 assists over his first 40 NHL games.

Five of those points came from the last battle between Colorado and Vancouver, an eye-popping 7-6 overtime winner for the Canucks.

Pettersson called the contest “one of the funnest games” he’s played in this season and said he’d like to see a repeat performance on Saturday.

But the young star noted that the squad has to make improvements if they want a shot at playing in the post season.

READ MORE: Vancouver Canucks, western rivals locked in battle for playoff spots

“The last two or three games we played (before the break), we didn’t play our best and we just weren’t good enough,” Pettersson said. “Hopefully we can turn it around on this road trip and play the type of game we want to play.”

Vancouver earned eight points during a six-game home stand in January, but several games were characterized by defensive lapses and struggles to get pucks on net early.

“We definitely weren’t playing our best before the break so I think it was a good time for us to regroup and remember what kind of team we want to be,” Horvat said. ”We definitely have to clean some stuff up in our own end.”

The team hasn’t registered more than nine shots in the first period of their last six games. In four contests, they had five shots or less through 20 minutes.

Playing simple hockey is the key to getting better results early, Horvat said.

“We’re trying to hit the home-run play and score the first goal,” he said. ”But I think if we stick to our process, simplify our game a little bit more and get a little bit more scoring opportunities and shots on net, we’re going to create a lot more offence.”

The Canucks know they can play cleaner, tighter hockey, said veteran defenceman Alex Edler.

“We’ve just got to get back to what we did when we were successful,” he said.

With the NHL trade deadline just over three weeks away, rumours have swirled about Edler’s future.

A free agent come July, the 32-year-old Swede has said he wants to stay with the club.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my whole career here, lived here for the most part of my adult life,” said Edler, who was drafted by the Canucks in 2004.

“I’ve been here when we’ve been really good and when we’re not so good. It’s no secret that I like it here.”

He’s been a big part of the team, too, both on the ice and in the locker room, said Green.

“You don’t have to be the loudest guy in the room to be a good leader,” the coach said. “He prepares well, he shows up to play. Whatever he has in the tank you’re going to get and that’s a good example for young guys.”

For now, Edler’s just focusing on Saturday’s game in Colorado.

The contest will be the first of many to have a post-season feel, he said.

“Every game now, it’s going to be playoff kind of hockey from here on in,” he said. ”So we’ve got to be prepared for that.”

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Warren Goulding column: Letter to the editor was unfair

I’m always impressed with the volume of letters to the editor that… Continue reading

Sarah Simpson Column: It took two months but the cat came back

The column before last, I mentioned that a cat who’d gone missing… Continue reading

Bulldog from Chemainus will be a Wildcat next season

Hawthorne grateful for the chance to play Div. 1 in the U.S. after his BCHL development

T.W. Paterson column: Forbidden Plateau’s lost gold nuggets

“Time and time again the young men scoured the hills…”

North Cowichan will look at hiring staff person to deal with climate change

Coun. Kate Marsh makes motion for a report on issue

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

Coming up in Cowichan: Bowl for Kids; Leaders of Tomorrow

Bowl for Kids Sake coming up in Cowichan Valley on March 3… Continue reading

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

Credit card fraud steals $50,000 from Victoria businesses: police

Crime Reduction Unit investigating several frauds costing several businesses over $50,000

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Most Read