Struggling Canucks seek results vs. Blue Jackets
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- While the Columbus Blue Jackets were losing Thursday night on the road to the Buffalo Sabres, the Vancouver Canucks were at Nationwide Arena practicing earlier in the day on their opponent's home ice.
That means the Canucks should be the more rested team Friday night when they face a Blue Jackets team coming home for the back end of a back-to-back.
The Canucks are in the middle of a seven-game trip that began Jan. 6 and doesn't end until Jan. 21, with a five-day break after Sunday's game at the Minnesota Wild. They've yet to win since leaving home, dropping the first three games on the road, the last a 3-1 loss in Washington on Tuesday night to the Capitals.
"Confidence on this team is tough to find these days," Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "That's no excuse for losing hockey games. We've got to find it. We really do.
"We've just got to find our game, find our confidence. When we're playing well, we want the puck. We're skating, winning battles all over the ice. We're just lacking one or two things here or there."
Wins have been hard to come by for Vancouver.
The Canucks (16-21-6) have lost five in a row overall and 13 of their last 15. Only the Arizona Coyotes have a worse record in the Western Conference.
"It's probably the toughest stretch I've been through in my career," Canucks defenseman Michael del Zotto said. "It's a tough and humbling league. You're not going to win every night. We've had some key injuries. But that's no excuse. We've left some points on the table."
One of Vancouver's injured players could return Friday night.
Defenseman Chris Tanev skated Thursday for the first time since taking a puck to the face on Saturday in a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and losing 6 1/2 teeth. His two front bottom teeth were pushed under his tongue, and he'll need more dental surgery next week to fix "roots and nerves in places they shouldn't be."
In the meantime, he plans to wear a wire cage to protect his face.
"I felt better today," Tanev said after practice.
Canucks forward Brandon Sutter has been sidelined since late November with an upper-body injury and joined his teammates on the ice for practice. He's anticipating a return to action on Sunday.
"It's never fun when you're seeing guys losing games," Sutter said. "The first little while they were doing well, and we were getting some wins. The last 10 games were a little more of a challenge, but I just want to get back in as soon as I can and try to help a bit. I think there's some positives we can take out of the last few games."
The biggest positive is the play of rookie Brock Boeser, who was the only Canucks player named to play in the NHL All-Star Game. He leads the team in points (40), goals (22), power-play goals (6), game-winning goals (4) and shots (114).
The Blue Jackets (25-17-3) have one more game before their five-day break. They'd like to go into it on a positive note after the loss in Buffalo ended a modest two-game win streak.
"We've got to bounce back," Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. "That's what's fun about back-to-backs. The next day you get to bounce back and play a better game. We've got the break coming up and we want to finish off with a win."
The Blue Jackets were unable to rally after falling behind 2-0 in Buffalo. They'd done the same thing on Monday night in Toronto before scoring two late goals to force overtime and then getting the winner in the extra period.
Artemi Panarin's third-period goal was all the offense the Blue Jackets could muster despite getting 44 shots against Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, playing in his first NHL game of the season.
"We were pushing," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "I thought we were going to tie it up. We had a couple of opportunities and didn't score.
"We know we need to get inside. There were some shifts we were right there. I'm not going to get into a long dissertation about getting guys inside."
The Blue Jackets welcomed back center Alexander Wennberg, who missed eight games with a back injury, but they couldn't produce the equalizer while trailing the Sabres 2-1 late in the game.
"We've got to find ways to score," Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski said.
Updated January 11, 2018