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NHL Hockey

Down-on-their-luck Canucks face tall order vs. Bruins

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- If Sven Baertschi needed motivation to excel, he has it now.

Baertschi likely will return to Vancouver's lineup Saturday as the Canucks (22-30-6) host the Boston Bruins (35-12-8) at Rogers Arena after unexpectedly landing in coach Travis Green's doghouse.

The winger was scratched unexpectedly in San Jose on Thursday night, even though he had two points in the previous game and four points in as many outings.

"I haven't been thrilled with his game as of late," Green told Postmedia. "I know he had two assists (against Florida on Wednesday), but it's not about points."

Some media types and fans have begged to differ with that comment, considering Baertschi's recent production and the Canucks are among the lowest-scoring teams in the league.

The ploy is similar to one that former Canucks coach Willie Desjardins made when holding Baertschi out of two games. The move ignited Baertschi, a 25-year-old Bern, Switzerland, native who has largely flourished since then.

But Green, who wants all of his players to play a strong two-way game, has not been sufficiently impressed.

"In general, I think his energy level has been a little low as of late," Green told Postmedia.

Such a comment should motivate Baertschi to play better defensively -- and offensively, presuming he gets back in -- as the Canucks renew their rivalry with the Bruins, who claimed the 2011 Stanley Cup from Vancouver in the same arena. Inevitably, Saturday's game will evoke memories of that bitter affair, although most of the players have moved on from both teams.

The matchup will also serve as a study in contrasts as the Canucks remain in rebuilding mode and the Bruins, who are challenging for top spot overall in the NHL, have clearly revived their fortunes after a series of strong draft picks and trades as well as a coaching change.

The Bruins hit town the same week that Canucks general manager Jim Benning -- a former Boston executive who helped build the 2011 champion squad -- signed a contract extension to mixed reviews.

"It's been hard," Benning said during a news conference about his new multiyear deal. "Losing is never fun. I knew coming it was going to be a lot of work.

"The tough part of it is the development. If you draft well, the development of those players, you can't seem to get them up and going fast enough."

That has especially been the case lately. The youthful Canucks have lost seven of their past eight games, mixing a lopsided road win over Dallas, which was playing its third game in four days, with one-sided losses and close calls.

Meanwhile, the Bruins are on a roll, winning six of their past seven games and eight of their last 10. The latest victory was a 5-2 decision at home over Calgary on Wednesday, when the Bruins overcame a 2-1 deficit with four straight goals.

But Bruins center David Krejci still wants to get his game going again. Krejci has been held to one point -- a goal -- in his past five games. For most of the season, he has gone no more than two games without generating points.

He is looking for his line as a whole, which includes speedy wingers Ryan Spooner and Jake DeBrusk, to produce more offensively. The trio has combined for 80 points this season, but was blanked against Calgary.

"It's good fun," Krejci, 31, told the Boston Herald about playing with his younger linemates. "But as a line we would like to contribute a little bit more. Lately, we have been pretty good for the team, but these last two games we have had some good offensive zone time. But the puck hasn't been going in for us.

"We are going to have to work extra hard to get the next one, and after that it will be a little easier for us. Now we have to stick to it."

While Krejci's line tries to score more goals, defenseman Adam McQuaid will try to hold off a Canucks squad that unleashed 44 shots against San Jose goaltender Martin Jones on Thursday night.

McQuaid has resumed his shot-blocking prowess after missing 36 games with a broken right fibula suffered after he got in the way of Vancouver defenseman Ben Hutton's blast on Oct. 19 in Boston.

"It got me in an area where there is not a lot of padding," McQuaid told the Boston Herald. "He's a guy that can shoot the puck pretty hard, so it was a combination of those two things."

But it remains to be seen whether McQuaid will have to worry about Hutton on Saturday. The Canucks' rearguard has been a frequent scratch lately.

Updated February 16, 2018

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