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What the Canucks lineup could look like without Brock Boeser in Game 7

"[Boeser's] scored some big goals for us. It’s a tough one. But next man up. That’s the way we’ve got to approach it, like we have all year."
With no Brock Boeser how will the Vancouver Canucks lineup in Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers?

On Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks got devastating news. Their leading scorer, Brock Boeser, will miss Game 7 with a blood clot in his leg and is unlikely to return in the postseason.

It’s brutal news for Boeser, who has overcome all kinds of hardships over the years to have the best season of his career. This is not the way his season was supposed to end.

Several things can lead to blood clots in hockey players, such as blood pooling in injuries, dehydration, and long hours spent sitting in airplanes. Blood clots can be terrifying, as they can be career-ending or even life-threatening. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case for Boeser, but it magnifies the importance of him stepping away from the game to take care of this issue.

"Brock is a great person," said Tyler Myers. "He and I have gotten really close over the last five years during my time here. Never mind the hockey side of things, he's a great guy to have in the room and definitely will be missed. Whenever any guy loses time, obviously he feels awful about it. You just rally around him, you support him, and you also help the next guy coming in. He'll be fine and we'll help him along the way here."

The priority, first and foremost, has to be Boeser’s long-term health.

"It's a tough one. But next man up."

The Canucks also have to deal with practical matters, however, like playing Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. That means figuring out the consequences of Boeser’s absence and making adjustments to the lineup.

“He had a great year for us, he’s a big part of the team,” said Rick Tocchet. “He’s scored some big goals for us. It’s a tough one. But next man up. That’s the way we’ve got to approach it, like we have all year.”

With Boeser out, Tocchet said that Ilya Mikheyev and Sam Lafferty will draw back into the lineup, as Vasily Podkolzin is also expected to come out. 

“Obviously, it’s tough to replace [Boeser’s] goalscoring but Mikheyev or Lafferty, those guys are going to have to supply us with some good defence,” said Tocchet. “But also, can they chip in a goal and play a hard game for us? They’ve got some legs tonight, so we’re looking at two guys coming in that are hopefully going to give us some really good juice.”

There’s also the challenge of matching up against the Oilers’ top forwards. Boeser played a significant role in the match-up game — no Canucks forward has played more against McDavid in this series than Boeser.

Tocchet suggested that it will take a group effort and may require a variety of line combinations throughout the game to match up against McDavid.

“You’ve got to lean on some other guys,” said Tocchet. “Some other guys are going to have to take a piece of the pie on that. Certain guys might have to play certain positions at certain times. It’s Game 7, that’s what you’ve got to do. There might be some different combos at different times.”

How the Canucks lined up for practice

What might some of those line combinations look like? The team’s lines from Monday’s practice suggest some options.

Here’s how the Canucks lined up, though it should be noted that J.T. Miller also missed Monday’s practice, taking a maintenance day.

Vasily Podkolzin - Elias Pettersson - Ilya Mikheyev
Dakota Joshua - Elias Lindholm - Conor Garland
Phil Di Giuseppe - Teddy Blueger - Nils Åman
Nils Höglander - Pius Suter - Sam Lafferty

With Podkolzin coming out of the lineup, it’s easy to simply insert Miller in his place, giving the Canucks a first line of Pettersson - Miller - Mikheyev.

It would be a shame to break up the Höglander - Lindholm - Pettersson line that has been so effective the last couple of games, with Lindholm and Höglander having near misses in Game 5, then Höglander scoring in Game 6. With Boeser out, however, the Canucks need someone to step up and play with Miller — Pettersson is the only other legitimate top-line winger available.

Mikheyev stepping onto that line suggests that it would play a match-up role, as Mikheyev has been reliable defensively, even as he’s struggled to score with just one goal in his last 60 games. The offence would have to come from Pettersson and Miller.

Reuniting Lindholm with Joshua and Garland to form the Good Job Lads makes a lot of sense, then, giving the Cancuks a credible second line that can also play match-up minutes against McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. 

Di Giuseppe and Åman were excellent in Game 5 on a line with Podkolzin, so lining them up with Blueger gives the Canucks a decent enough bottom-six line that ought to be able to defend effectively, even if goals are unlikely from that group.

The wild card line is Höglander, Suter, and Lafferty. Suter’s hockey IQ has been a crucial element of Miller’s match-up line throughout the playoffs, so moving him back to centre is an interesting move. With Lafferty’s speed and Höglander’s tenaciousness, this line could create some havoc against bottom-six match-ups. Could it be the X-factor in Game 7?

Alternative lines for the Canucks in Game 7

Monday’s practice lines could be a red herring and we could see entirely different lines when the Canucks take the ice tonight.

What if the Canucks kept the all-Swede line intact and gave Miller a dynamic duo on the wings?

Dakota Joshua - J.T. Miller - Conor Garland
Nils Höglander - Elias Lindholm - Elias Pettersson
Phil Di Giuseppe - Teddy Blueger - Nils Åman
Sam Lafferty - Pius Suter - Ilya Mikheyev

Alternatively, the Canucks could continue to use Suter in a match-up role with Miller.

Pius Suter - J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson
Dakota Joshua - Elias Lindholm - Conor Garland
Phil Di Giuseppe - Nils Åman - Ilya Mikheyev
Nils Höglander - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty

Tocchet insinuating that we’re likely to see different line combinations at different times puts all of these options (and more) on the table. 

Whatever the lines end up being, the Canucks will be looking to take motivation from Boeser’s absence.

“It’s a tough situation, you hate to see it,” said Joshua. “He’s our longest-tenured Canuck. But it just adds all the more fuel to the fire to get this done for him. No one’s cheering us on more than him tonight. We don’t want to let him down, so we’ll be battling for him out there.”