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

Memorial remembers Vernon’s most marginalized

Prayers and flowers for those who have died on the streets

One year later: Vernon pot stores look back at legalization

Edibles made legal on first anniversary of recreational cannabis

Vernon RCMP seek assistance in locating vehicle involved in hit and run

Vernon RCMP are searching for a grey sedan that struck a motorcycle on Oct. 8 at 48 Ave. and 24 St.

Great Vernon Pumpkin Race to star in South Korean documentary

Pumpkin Classic event to kick off this weekend with gourd weigh-ins

Okanagan College nursing students to make history in Thailand

Students to take on Vernon-born practicum overseas

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Letter: Small actions of North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates speak volumes

Writer commends Salmon Arm high school students for helping at all-candidates meeting

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

Okanagan candidates’ signs headed to dump

Dozens of signs were picked up for not complying with bylaws, according to the city

Salmon Arm arena told to upgrade ice chilling system in 2020 or face closure

Fatal ammonia leak in Fernie prompts Technical Safety BC to order 20-year-old chillers replacement

Police search Kelowna home, arrest 6 and seize 2000 marijuana plants

Police seized $1400 in cash, 95 pounds of dried marijuana bud and nearly 2000 plants

Most Read