Vancouver Canucks, Andrei Kuzmenko

Canucks Scratched Kuzmenko Will Play Tuesday

Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet made it clear after practice on Monday that Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko will return to the line-up on Tuesday night at home against the Anaheim Ducks after sitting for two games as a healthy scratch.

“Koozy” had a good practice today, according to Tocchet.

“For Koozy, he’s just gotta make sure he does the little things a little bit more now,” Tocchet said. “If he’s got a one-on-one chance and wants to do a spin-o-rama, I hope he does, but it’s not just Koozy, it’s the whole team. You can’t do a spin-o-rama when there’s three people around you and we’re changing, that puck’s gotta go deep. Those are the things we all have to make each other accountable of.”

Coming off a 39 goal season Kuzmenko started this one on the Canucks top line with centre Elias Pettersson and his Russian countryman Ilya Mikheyev. This season he’s on pace to score 12.

With his ice time wildly fluctuating, Kuzmenko’s production has tapered off since picking up six points over his first seven games.

“He’s got to get his game a bit more sharpened up,” Tocchet said Monday. “It’s not about last year, it’s about this year for us. He’s a guy that needed a re-set, (we) worked with him on a couple things, some video. I thought he had a good practice today, that’s what I’m looking for from him tomorrow.”

Tomorrow as in a date with the Ducks.

Koozy’s last game was his 100th in the NHL, a 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver last Wednesday. Koozy was a minus-3 and pointless for a third consecutive game.

His first scratch, missing the 5-1 road win against the Seattle Kraken on Friday, was on purpose. The second one the next night came because Tocchet liked what he saw and stuck with his line-up from the night before. Not uncommon for an NHL bench boss.

Overall in his time in the league since joining the Canucks in the summer of 2022, Kuzmenko has 42 goals and 46 assists and has played to a plus-10. Not too shabby.

Now it’s about playing the “right way”, in this case the 200-foot game that his coach considers the right way.

“When the puck’s out in the neutral zone you’ve gotta hustle back to be an option,” Tocchet added. “(Be a) middle drive guy, pucks around the wall you’ve gotta get them out. I think in certain situations those are the little things that I value around here, it’s not just about scoring goals. If you’re not scoring goals, that’s fine, goal scorers go through slumps, I don’t care if he scores … sure I want him to score, but it’s not just Koozy, it’s everyone, the little things matter.”

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Canucks Monday practice.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.