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“Jake played more like he’s capable,” said Benning. “He was skating well, had scoring chances and was physical. I expect going forward that he will be back in the lineup, but we’ve (got) other guys. Jake is typically a slow starter, but he’s at a point now in this year where we don’t have time to get him up and going. And he’s not going to be given a spot.”
Zack MacEwen has provided a gritty element at wing and the often-scratched Adam Gaudette has moved to wing from centre. That got Brandon Sutter back in his customary position in the middle to help with the club’s defensive posture, although he did net his first career hat-trick Jan. 25 vs. Ottawa.
Add it all up and the Canucks are the sum of many parts.
They played better Tuesday and still lost. They’ve given up the most shots and power plays, are the league’s most-penalized team and have scored one road power-play goal in 24 chances. They’ve also surrendered the second most goals at even strength.
The top line has seldom been in sync. Miller was slow to find his form after COVID-19 protocols as a high-risk close contact of the infected Benn, but is at a point-per-game clip despite being crushed in even-strength puck-possession analytic assessments.
Elias Pettersson scored and had five shots and eight attempts Tuesday and Brock Boeser has has four two-goal games.
Splitting up the top line Tuesday got their attention to get away from high-risk, turnover-prone plays. Putting them back together Thursday would be prudent.
“We’re going to get better and we’re going to find our way, but we have to win our share of games,” summed up Benning.
Toronto would be a good start.
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