FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

The Province - - HOCKEY | SPORTS -

1 How long is the Goldobin leash?

Coach Travis Green loves Niko­lay Goldobin’s cre­ativ­ity and loathes the winger’s lax play with­out the puck. Scratched in con­sec­u­tive games in Ot­tawa and Mon­treal last week — his soft backcheck at­tempt that al­lowed Brian Boyle to eas­ily score the open­ing goal in New Jer­sey on Dec. 31 was the tip­ping point — the club’s fourth­lead­ing scorer with 23 points (5-18) is get­ting an­other first-line look be­cause his of­fence has dried up. Goldobin hasn’t scored in 11 games and has just one in his last 18. If he can’t score or can’t check, what’s next?

2 Edler must shut out the noise

Will pend­ing un­re­stricted free agent Alex Edler be re-signed soon? Will he waive his no-trade clause? Will he be dealt at the dead­line? Will the Canucks gain a good as­set in their on­go­ing tran­si­tion and bring the club’s long­est-serv­ing de­fence­man back in free agency? Edler hasn’t thought about it be­cause his strength is a one-game fo­cus in a re­ju­ve­nated sea­son. He leads the club’s de­fence­men with 19 points (4-15), ranks fourth over­all in the NHL with 90 blocked shots in 30 games and is av­er­ag­ing a team-high 23:13. He’s on pace for his best sea­son since 2011-12 when he had 49 points (11-38).

3 Bet­ter break­outs, net pres­ence

Rare prac­tice time has al­lowed the Canucks to zone in on fun­da­men­tals to im­prove on be­ing ranked 21st in goals per game (2.82). They’re lack­ing fin­ish and not do­ing the greasy stuff for screens, tips and re­bounds. And de­spite be­ing ranked 10th in even­strength goals, Bo Hor­vat and Jake Vir­ta­nen haven’t scored in seven games. The Canucks have also al­lowed the sec­ond most third-pe­riod goals.

4 Is it fi­nally time for Demko start?

Net­min­der Thatcher Demko has re­cov­ered from a con­cus­sion and posted good AHL num­bers (8-5-0, 2.58 goals-against av­er­age, .911 saves per­cent­age) and his sec­ond NHL ca­reer start is on the hori­zon. His first was March 31 with a wild 5-4 shootout vic­tory over Colum­bus at Rogers Arena in which he was cheered and also al­lowed three con­sec­u­tive goals in the third pe­riod.

5 Gaudette is earn­ing his plau­dits

The re­called Adam Gaudette made the most of his three-game AHL re-as­sign­ment to make ros­ter room for Sven Baertschi. The cen­tre has seven points (4-3) in seven games with the Utica Comets, in­clud­ing a three-point out­ing Satur­day (2-1) in a 6-2 win at Cleve­land. Gaudette has six points (2-4) in 31 NHL games this sea­son.

Cen­tre Clay­ton Keller leads the Ari­zona Coy­otes in as­sists and points.

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