The Vancouver Canucks will welcome (with conditions) the San Jose Sharks to Rogers Arena tonight, in the first real-ish test for both squads since their respective losses in last season’s playoffs.
The Sharks were valiant in defeat, taking the then-defending champion Los Angeles Kings to seven games in Round 2. As for the Canucks, they were swept like chum by the very same San Jose team.
For Vancouver, it will have to be a new years. Some things will have to change. And so, in that spirit, rookie Hunter Shinkaruk gets the start alongside Ryan Kesler, who’s only two years removed from a Selke Trophy but 10 years removed from his first NHL game.
“I’ll be talking to him all game,” Kesler told Canucks.com’s Joey Kenward on Monday. “My first game… I was pretty nervous. He’s probably the same way.”
Shinkaruk was drafted 23rd overall by the Canucks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. In his last two seasons with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, the sniper’s potted 49 and 37 goals.
As for being nervous, well, he acknowledges that.
“Obviously, I’m going to be nervous and I don’t want to do too much out there to get myself into trouble, but I also have to do what got me here as well,” he told reporters on Monday.
“He looked good in pre-game skate, so I’m gonna be excited to see what he’s got out there,” Kesler said.
Shinkaruk was also strong in last week’s Penticton-set NHL Young Stars Classic. In his final game – against the Winnipeg Jets young stars – Shinkaruk added a goal and an assist, and his speed and slick hands have caught the notice of the Canucks coaching staff, including new head coach John Tortorella.
Torts will be in the press box for Game 1 tonight, not down on the bench.
“I’m just not a good enough coach to be able to coach a game to try to win it which we should try to be doing, every time you put the uniform on you should be trying to win, plus evaluate and give a fair look at some of these kids,” he told a press conference.
As for goalies, Eddie Lack will play periods one and two, and Joe Cannata will take over in the final frame.
On Friday, the Sporting News’s Kevin McCartney rated Shinkaruk the Canucks’ best player in last week’s Penticton tournament:
“He was one of the most dangerous forwards in the tournament offensively – and with violence. Put Mirco Mueller out of the tournament in Game 1 with an offensive-zone cross check after throwing a hit in the neutral zone and steaming through two defenders on the dump-and-chase. Much more edge to his game than reported, and all the skill and speed imagined on draft day, when the Canucks took him in the first round.”
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