MAK­ING A GO WITH­OUT BO

Canucks with­out Hor­vat for six weeks

Vancouver Sun - - FP VANCOUVER - pjohn­ston@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/risin­gac­tion

The easy part of this story is Bo Hor­vat is out for six weeks with a frac­tured foot.

The hard part of this story is fig­ur­ing out how the Canucks can tape to­gether their hopes while he’s out.

“It’s a big hole. I’m not go­ing to dwell on it,” Travis Green said mat­ter-of-factly Thurs­day, af­ter con­firm­ing the tough news.

“Next in line,” he said. “Teams deal with injuries and we’ll have to deal with it. It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge.”

No kid­ding: Since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, Hor­vat’s been the team’s min­utes leader at for­ward and it hasn’t even been close.

He has been a key mem­ber of a power play that has found its groove.

“He’s got a lot of speed on the break­out, he’s done a good job in front, he wins pucks af­ter re­bounds and those kinds of things; that’s when it’s key to get the puck back. Oth­er­wise you are go­ing to spend an­other 40 sec­onds try­ing to get back in their zone,” Hen­rik Sedin said in try­ing to sum up what Hor­vat does on the power play.

He’s been a leader on a penalty kill that’s been do­ing a good job of lim­it­ing op­po­nents’ shots.

“It’s def­i­nitely tough,” said Loui Eriks­son, who of­ten kills penal­ties along­side Hor­vat. “It’s all about read­ing plays and be­ing in the right lane.”

Hor­vat takes a huge por­tion of the team’s big face­offs and, of course, there’s also his work with the puck on of­fence.

“He eats up a lot of big min­utes on our team, like Sut­ter, and we’ll deal with it,” Green said.

One of the cen­tremen the Canucks may turn to is Sam Gag­ner.

“What Bo brings to the game, it’s kind of un­fil­l­able,” Gag­ner said. “We’re go­ing to need a lot of dif­fer­ent guys to step up.”

But Gag­ner pointed to the predica­ment of one of his old teams, the Anaheim Ducks, as a bit of a les­son.

“Anaheim has been play­ing with­out their top two cen­tres it seems like all year,” he said.

Good point: The Ducks have been miss­ing Ryan Kesler all sea­son, and lost Ryan Get­zlaf last month. They’re still tread­ing wa­ter at 12-11-6.

Hor­vat has made great strides de­fen­sively this year. His line is still giv­ing away more shots than you would like, but like the rest of the team, they’ve im­proved to a tremen­dous de­gree in keep­ing those shots to the out­side.

There were wor­ries in the past that Hor­vat’s de­fen­sive game would never come around, but un­der Green for 27 games, he showed le­git­i­mate im­prove­ment.

At even strength, it looks as if Gag­ner will pick up some of the slack — but while his of­fen­sive game is good, his de­fen­sive work has al­ways been spotty.

That makes for matchup wor­ries for the coach, es­pe­cially in the con­tin­ued ab­sence of Bran­don Sut­ter, who Green likes as a shut­down cen­tre, even if the num­bers have never re­ally backed that be­lief up very well.

On the power play, Hor­vat has be­come a net-front beast, as noted by his cap­tain. Might Thomas Vanek be the man for the job? He did score on a lovely tip against Carolina on Tues­day.

The penalty kill may prove to be the hard­est part of this hole to patch: The Canucks were al­ready down two key guys in Sut­ter, who Green said is still at least a week away from re­turn­ing, and Derek Dorsett, who was forced to re­tire.

Eriks­son and Markus Gran­lund re­main key play­ers on the PK. Bren­dan Gaunce has stepped for­ward of late to fill the gap. Alex Bur­mistrov has spent some time killing penal­ties al­ready this sea­son. But af­ter that, it’s a wideopen ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Gag­ner has done a bit of it in the past. Niko­lay Goldobin was learn­ing how to do it in Utica. Jake Vir­ta­nen’s play at even strength sug­gests he might have un­tapped po­ten­tial.

At the end of all this, we’re go­ing to get a clear read on the rest of this Canucks team, which has de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions al­ready and put it­self in the play­off dis­cus­sion. We as­sume that’s go­ing to be a much harder po­si­tion to sus­tain for the next six weeks. The Canucks, of course, are out to prove that think­ing wrong.

BRUCE BEN­NETT/GETTY IMAGES

Bo Hor­vat has been the Van­cou­ver Canucks’ leader in min­utes this sea­son, but is now out with a frac­tured foot.

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