Boeser, Pettersson expected to return for Canucks against Panthers

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Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Jason Dickinson are expected to play for the Vancouver Canucks when they start a five-game road trip at the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; BSFL, SNP, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

The forwards practiced Monday after each exited NHL COVID-19 protocol.

Boeser missed three games after being placed into protocol Dec. 29. Tuesday would be his first game since Dec. 16; they had five games postponed between Dec. 18-27.

Dickinson missed one game after entering protocol Jan. 1, and Pettersson was placed in protocol Jan. 5.

The Canucks will play Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 1 after having games against the New York Islanders on Jan. 5 and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday postponed.

“There’s not a player alive that won’t say, ‘I feel great coach, put me in,'” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “All three of them worked really hard today and I think they’ll be ready for tomorrow mentally. We’ll see. What I tell them is you go as hard as you can for as long as you can and see where it goes. I’m sure their shifts will be a little shorter than normal.”

Boeser was unable to practice for 12 days prior to Monday, but insists he hasn’t lost the confidence he gained from scoring five goals in his previous six games. He scored four goals in his first 22 games.

“I still have that feeling of, I feel like I can score any game, and it’s a great feeling,” he said. “Even in practice I still feel like I have that confidence and that swagger again. I’m probably a little out of shape compared to the guys, they had a hard week of practice. It just comes down to simplifying my game, short shifts, and really focusing on shooting the puck and working as hard as I can. I think if I do that I’ll slowly start to feel better and better and hopefully I can continue to contribute to this team and help us win hockey games.”

Vancouver hasn’t lost in regulation (8-0-1) since Boudreau replaced Travis Green as coach Dec. 5. But their road trip will see them play five of the top six teams in the NHL standings entering play Monday, starting against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday; they’re tied for the NHL lead with 51 points.

After that they have back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals on Saturday and Sunday, and finish the trip at the Nashville Predators on Jan. 18.

“Since I’ve been here we haven’t met a team like Florida yet and it’s going be an interesting litmus test to see what our guys are made of, especially after not playing for 10 days,” Boudreau said. “They’re really chomping at the bit to play the game. They know who our opposition is the next five games. You’re playing the best of the best in the NHL right now, so it’s a test to see where you’re at and hopefully by this time next week we’ll have figured out that we passed the test.”

Pettersson, who has scored four points (two goals, two assists) his past six games after scoring 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his first 28, is excited to get back to playing.

“It’s a good feeling in the group,” he said. “We’re winning now so it’s fun. But it doesn’t come easy so we’ve got to be humble.”

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