NHL News: Rick Tocchet era begins as Canucks host Blackhawks

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The Vancouver Canucks finally turned the page.

Vancouver’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday marks the next chapter for the club that hired Rick Tocchet as head coach after a drawn-out firing of Bruce Boudreau.

Boudreau, who coached for a couple of weeks amidst rampant speculation that he would be replaced by Tocchet, was finally relieved of his duties on Sunday.

Now Tocchet — who has been a head coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes — takes the reins of a team that has lost seven of its past eight games and 10 of its past 12.

“I don’t look at it as a tough start,” Tocchet said. “I look at it as a new day tomorrow. All of that other stuff lessens and lessens (each day).”

The Canucks are more than a dozen points out in the playoff race, and a miracle run is almost impossible, but Tocchet — who reportedly has a contract through the 2024-25 season — will look to create a new atmosphere for a franchise that has now had three head coaches in less than 14 months.

Tocchet, a tough-as-nails player who collected 440 goals and 952 points along with 2,970 penalty minutes in his lengthy NHL career, has plenty of work to do. He’s not known as a taskmaster as a coach, but he does his job with a firm hand.

“We expect to play hard,” Canucks forward Conor Garland said. “There won’t be any passengers.”

Chicago, which is kicking off a three-game road trip through Western Canada, is looking to rebound after taking a 2-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

The Blackhawks, who have one of the worst records in the NHL, are still playing some of their best hockey this season.

The Los Angeles defeat snapped a three-game winning streak for a team that had won six of seven outings amidst plenty of chatter about key players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Max Domi being traded away before the March 3 deadline.

A trip to the playoffs is a long shot at best, but the Blackhawks are trying to show pride the rest of the way.

“We hope to turn around again on this road trip and keep more wins coming,” Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy said.

In the contest against the Kings, the Blackhawks were playing on the second of back-to-back nights, but Los Angeles coach Luke Richardson shot down that excuse in a hurry. After all, his team improved as the game continued.

“Lack of energy, and really I think (the Kings) had kind of the same schedule we did,” Richardson said. “We just couldn’t find our game. They played a smart first two periods. They were just putting pucks in. I thought they had short shifts and really tried to buzz us.”

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, forward Tyler Johnson won’t be on the trip after aggravating a left ankle injury that has been an issue all season. Johnson, who has collected 14 points in 22 games this season, was placed on injured reserve.

–Field Level Media

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