SIX WEEKS WITH­OUT BO

Hor­vat out with in­jury

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BEN KUZMA bkuzma@postmedia.com Twit­ter.com/ benkuzma

Fog has fit­tingly flanked B.C.’s Lower Main­land.

The Van­cou­ver Canucks, who have lost hard-work­ing, point-pro­duc­ing matchup cen­tre Bo Hor­vat for up to six weeks with a frac­tured foot, are try­ing to see their way through a sud­den ros­ter fog that is thick with un­cer­tainty.

You sim­ply don’t re­place a 10goal, 20-point pivot whose work ethic, net-front pres­ence, face­off ef­fi­ciency and spe­cial-teams re­li­a­bil­ity have con­trib­uted to keep­ing the NHL club in play­off con­tention.

“It’s a big chal­lenge — a big hole,” said Canucks coach Travis Green.

With Bran­don Sut­ter ex­pected to be side­lined an­other week with a shoul­der in­jury, the Canucks are mi­nus their best shut­down cen­tres and their best face­off spe­cial­ists — es­pe­cially in the de­fen­sive zone.

The trickle-down effect Thurs­day against the Philadel­phia Fly­ers was Alexan­der Bur­mistrov get­ting out of press box pur­ga­tory to start be­tween Niko­lay Goldobin and Brock Boeser.

Here’s what we learned as the Canucks fell 4-1 at Rogers Arena to end their three-game win streak:

BOESER’S PRES­ENCE FELT

There was early hurry, then a big flurry and a 6-0 shot ad­van­tage.

The Fly­ers, play­ing their sec­ond game in as many nights, needed 7:16 to muster a shot on Ja­cob Mark­strom. There were 15 first-pe­riod shots by the Canucks but there wasn’t the net pres­ence or enough fin­ish to beat a Fly­ers club that is start­ing to look as good on the ice as it looks on pa­per.

With­out Hor­vat, the Canucks weren’t beat­ing a path to goalie Brian El­liott. Jake Vir­ta­nen made power moves off the wing and got to the net. It was en­cour­ag­ing. He wasn’t stop­ping short. He even set up shop in front of El­liott and de­flected a shot just over the net.

By the third pe­riod, he was play­ing with Bur­mistrov and Goldobin while Thomas Vanek aligned with Hen­rik and Daniel Sedin. Loui Eriks­son wound up with Bren­dan Gaunce and Markus Gran­lund.

How­ever, it was Boeser’s 14th goal of the sea­son that was sym­bolic be­cause it’s how the Canucks are go­ing to have to play down low with­out the horse Hor­vat.

Af­ter a sus­tained flurry and Sven Baertschi try­ing to end a se­v­engame goal drought, it was Boeser who mus­cled his way to the top of the crease, kept his bal­ance and shov­elled a loose puck home on the back­hand.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t high­light-reel wor­thy. But it was the type of ef­fort that must be­come com­mon­place.

Boeser had his good looks in his sweet shoot­ing spot and fin­ished with seven shots. Some heavy. Some not. But his net pres­ence got it done.

CAN POWER PLAY FIND WAY?

From woe­ful to hope­ful.

The Canucks were op­er­at­ing at a piti­ful 14.2 per cent ef­fi­ciency when they faced the Kings in Los An­ge­les on Nov. 14.

They were 0-for-10 in their pre­vi­ous two out­ings and when they fell be­hind 2-0 at the Sta­ples Cen­tre in the first pe­riod.

Plod­ding units had the Sedins with right-shots Thomas Vanek, Sam Gag­ner and Michael Del Zotto, while Hor­vat, Baertschi, Boeser, Der­rick Pouliot and Ben Hut­ton formed the sec­ond unit. They de­cided to put Hor­vat and Boeser with the Sedins and Alex Edler and have Eriks­son work with Baertschi, Vanek, Gag­ner and Pouliot.

Hor­vat and Baertschi scored on the power play in what would be a 3-2 win.

Since that out­ing, the Canucks have gone 11-for-30 and were rated 12th over­all en­ter­ing play Thurs­day. Their 22 power-play goals are just 10 shy of what the club ac­com­plished last sea­son.

Gran­lund tried to re­place Hor­vat on the first unit and had a chance dur­ing an early five-shot pow­er­play flurry.

But he’s not a net-front guy and that el­e­ment is miss­ing and dif­fi­cult to re­place.

WHAT’S BUG­GING BUR­MISTROV?

Bur­mistrov has been called a “wild card” and “rover” by Green.

He was also called a healthy scratch in 10 of the pre­vi­ous 13 games and his get-out-of-jail card came with the in­jury to Hor­vat. It’s not how he wanted to re-en­ter the lineup — and that bugs him — but an un­even game and just one goal in his pre­vi­ous 17 out­ings wasn’t go­ing to punch his ticket.

Not with sym­me­try down the mid­dle. And when Sut­ter re­turns, Bur­mistrov has to make the most of this look. It’s up to him to do some­thing with it be­cause Sut­ter will re­turn be­tween Gaunce and Vir­ta­nen and Gran­lund could eas­ily sup­plant Bur­mistrov.

Green gave Bur­mistrov some rope Thurs­day, but he didn’t have a shot. He did re­place Hor­vat on the penalty kill and wasn’t on the ice for the two Fly­ers power-play goals. That’s some­thing, but not enough.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/JONATHAN HAY­WARD

Philadel­phia Fly­ers right winger Wayne Sim­monds is stopped by Van­cou­ver Canucks goalie Ja­cob Mark­strom on Thurs­day night at Rogers Arena. Mark­strom stopped 22 of 25 shots he faced in the loss. The Canucks man­aged 37 shots on net.

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