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Lindholm joins Pettersson as Canucks shake up lines for Game 5

Can Elias Lindholm reignite Elias Pettersson as the Vancouver Canucks look to take the series lead against the Edmonton Oilers?
Elias Lindholm has been tasked with helping Elias Pettersson find his game again as the Vancouver Canucks take on Edmonton Oilers in Game 5.

The Vancouver Canucks’ lineup hasn’t changed much throughout the postseason but it’s about to take a seismic shift heading into Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers.

It just might mean igniting a spark in the team’s struggling franchise forward, Elias Pettersson.

After admitting on Wednesday that Pettersson isn’t getting “the help he needs” from his linemates, head coach Rick Tocchet shook up the lines at Thursday’s morning skate, shuffling him to the wing alongside one of the Canucks’ hottest forwards.

Elias Lindholm is second on the Canucks in goalscoring in the playoffs with five goals and eight points in ten games, with three of those goals coming in this second-round series against the Oilers. While some of that scoring has come on the power play, most of it has come with his five-on-five linemates, Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua.

Now, Lindholm has been tasked with helping Pettersson find his game again, with Pettersson moving to the right wing with Lindholm at centre. 

“Yep,” said Tocchet quickly when asked if he felt he had to give Pettersson better linemates to help him out. “We watched video today and he’s energized. I think that’s my job. I’ve got to help the kid out too, it’s not all on him. I’ve got to get him going with linemates or different approaches.”

Joining the two Eliases is Nils Höglander after two games as a healthy scratch. Höglander scored 24 goals in the regular season but has struggled in his first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, managing just one assist in eight games and only four shots on goal. 

“It’s going to be fun. I’ve been resting now for a couple days, so I’m going to be fresh out there today,” said Höglander, then suggested the scratches might have helped him. “I think it could be good for me too, to watch from up top and see where I can do better.”

“I don’t think I’ve played my best hockey,” he added. “That’s why I’m out, I guess. I know I can be better and it’s maybe good for me to get a little bit of rest and come back here tonight.”

None of the linemates Pettersson played with in Game 4 are expected to even be in the lineup for Thursday’s Game 5. Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty, and Linus Karlsson did not take regular line rushes during the morning skate, with Lafferty and Mikheyev staying out late to work with emergency backup goaltender Nikita Tolopilo after practice.

If healthy scratching all three forwards Pettersson spent the most time with in Game 4 isn’t an admission that he’s been playing with poor linemates, what is?

With Lindholm moving to Pettersson’s line, Garland and Joshua have returned to their usual centre during the regular season, Teddy Blueger. The line, affectionately known as the Good Job Boys to regular PITB readers, was one of the NHL’s most effective third lines during the regular season.

“Each of us probably brings a little bit of a different game and we’re able to kind of blend that together well,” said Blueger. “Dak’s obviously got the size, net-front presence, and physicality; Gar’s got the skill and the hockey sense to possess the puck down low and make plays. I think because of the way we complement each other as far as different skillsets, we find a way to be on the same page.”

Garland and Joshua have already shown they’re capable of carrying a line no matter who their centre is and Blueger has proven chemistry with that duo. Lindholm doesn’t need Garland and Joshua but Pettersson, at least right now, might need Lindholm.

The fourth line also saw an overhaul at morning skate. Phil Di Giuseppe, who missed two games while his wife gave birth, will draw back into the lineup, as will Vasily Podkolzin, who will play his first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff game.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and for the team as well,” said Podkolzin. “I can bring some energy, make some hits, and make some shots. Try to create some moments for my teammates and try to be useful.” 

"He's a wild card," said Tocchet of Podkolzin. "If Podzy plays predictable hockey tonight, he'll be good. If he knows exactly where the puck is going, that's where the moose comes in. If he's waiting to go — I call it 'pause hockey' where you're waiting around — then it's not his game. He's just going to be standing around and be late everywhere...Don't worry about making a mistake on a read; just be aggressive on your reads."

Di Giuseppe and Podkolzin will be on the wings with Nils Åman at centre. With two of the team’s centres, Pettersson and Suter, playing on the wing, Åman illustrates the Canucks’ depth at centre, as he was a reliable low-event forward during the regular season.

The only line that remained intact, then, was the top line of Pius Suter, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser. That line has been the Canucks’ best in the playoffs, with Boeser leading the team in scoring with seven goals and 12 points, with Miller close behind at 11 points. Suter hasn’t done much scoring but his off-puck awareness and defensive conscience has helped that line play a match-up role throughout the postseason.

The morning skate also saw a change on the defensive end, though that was expected: Carson Soucy returned to the blue line after serving his one-game suspension for crosschecking Connor McDavid. He’ll be back with Tyler Myers and is likely to again play a match-up role against McDavid’s line.