FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
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.