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|VANCOUVER Youth Mark Letestu Jersey , British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs several weeks ago, but they still have something to play for Thursday night.
The Canucks (30-40-10) will strive to earn a win against the Phoenix Coyotes (29-40-11) as twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin play their final home for the only NHL club they have known.
“We definitely want to make their last game here memorable and (we) want to try and get a win for them,” rookie Canucks winger Adam Gaudette told reporters Wednesday after an optional practice.
A sellout crowd is expected for the second straight game, with tickets again fetching premium prices, after the Sedins announced their retirement Monday. Daniel Sedin told reporters that Thursday’s contest will stand out more in their minds than the boisterous scene Tuesday, when the Canucks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout in which both Sedins participated.
“It’s a chance for us to thank the fans, it’s more that than anything else,” Daniel Sedin said. “Time flies. It will be over before we know it. We’re going to enjoy it and treat it like a normal game. (Thursday) will be more emotional. I think that’s when you realize … you’ve probably taken your last steps on the ice. It will be special.”
Several tributes are planned for the 37-year-olds during the game as their parents, two older brothers and other friends and former teammates join the crowd.
Among other special happenings, the club’s nightly 50/50 will start at C$400,000 and lights outside Rogers Arena and within Vancouver’s city limits will shine blue and yellow (Sweden’s colors) in tribute to the Swedish siblings.
The Sedins’ teammates plan to enjoy the occasion, too.
“It’s the end of an era,” center Bo Horvat Ryan Callahan Jersey , who is a strong candidate to replace Henrik Sedin as captain next season, told reporters. “It’s the end of an amazing career for those guys.
“To be part of it is really special for me.”
Although the Canucks and Coyotes will miss the playoffs, the game — the second-last for each club — holds some significance in the standings. With a win, Arizona can move a point ahead of the Canucks and leave Vancouver last in the Western Conference. Thursday’s result could also affect the teams’ 2018 draft position, depending on how lottery balls fall.
The Canucks and Coyotes have been playing well, much to the chagrin of fans who want them to tank during the stretch run and improve their draft hopes. Vancouver has won five of seven games, while Arizona has two straight victories and six in the past eight outings.
The Canucks might need to worry about one of their former players. Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, who was drafted by the Canucks and spent most of his time in their farm system, has been on a scoring tear lately.
He scored the winning goal and added an assist in Arizona’s 4-1 victory over Calgary on Tuesday and has 10 goals since the all-star break — after scoring only once in his first 42 games.
“I’m playing a lot more confident — using my skating, using my shot,” the 28-year-old, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, told reporters. “(I) had a rough year last year with injuries and then sitting out (as a healthy scratch.) So the beginning of the year Cory Schneider Jersey , I was still trying to get back to my game, but I think I’m back there now.”
Connauton might see more playing time than usual Thursday. Fellow Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who was injured in Calgary, will not be in the lineup. The Coyotes recalled Dakota Mermis from the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League to fill in for him.
Chychrun suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury when he was tripped from behind by Calgary’s Michael Frolik. Arizona coach Rick Tocchet took exception to Frolik’s action.
“I know he’s not a dirty player, but it’s a dirty play,” Tocchet told reporters. “I don’t like it at all.”
PITTSBURGH (0-0) at CLEVELAND (0-0)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
OPENING LINE — Steelers by 6 ½
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Pittsburgh 7-10, Cleveland 4-12
SERIES RECORD — Steelers lead 73-58
LAST MEETING — Steelers beat Browns 28-24, Dec. 31, 2017
AP PRO32 RANKING — Steelers No. 5, Browns No. 31
STEELERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (3), RUSH (20) Ryan Miller Jersey , PASS (3).
STEELERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (5), RUSH (10), PASS (5).
BROWNS OFFENSE – OVERALL (24), RUSH (18), PASS (22).
BROWNS DEFENSE – OVERALL (14), RUSH (7), PASS (19).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — One-sided rivalry for two decades, Steelers are 33-6 against Browns since 1999. … Steelers without Pro Bowl RB Le’Veon Bell, who has been in extended contract holdout with team that has turned nasty. … Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is 21-2 as starter against Browns. … Roethlisberger surpassed 50,000 career yards passing last season, one of only eight NFL QBs to reach plateau. … Ohio native Roethlisberger is 24-4 in games played in home state. … Steelers went 7-1 on road last season. … Steelers All-Pro WR Antonio Brown led all receivers with 1,533 yards receiving in 2017. Brown burned Browns in last season’s opener — 11 catches Jakob Silfverberg Jersey , 182 yards — and made critical 38-yard reception in fourth quarter to seal Pittsburgh’s 21-18 win. … Brown’s 582 catches and 7,848 yards are most in five-year span in league history. … Steelers DT Cameron Heyward had team-best 12 sacks in 2017. … Steelers will face former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, whose contract was not renewed after six seasons. … Browns coming off just second 0-16 season for any NFL team. … Cleveland’s roster has been overhauled, with 31 new players from last season. … Browns have lost 13 straight openers and are 1-18 in Week 1 since returning as expansion team. Lone win came in 2004. … QB Tyrod Taylor will be 29th different starter for Cleveland since ’99. Taylor expected to start while Browns develop top overall pick Baker Mayfield, who had strong training camp. … Browns DE Myles Garrett missed last season’s opener vs. Steelers with ankle sprain. He’s vowed to “chop down” Roethlisberger since being drafted first overall in 2017. … Browns starting RT Chris Hubbard was Steeler from 2013-17. … Browns WR Josh Gordon set to play in first season opener since 2013, when he led league with 1,646 yards receiving. Gordon, who says he’s as “locked in” as at any point in career, has been suspended for 54 of past 64 games. … Gordon missed training camp to get counseling and won’t start, but expected to have major role. … Browns coach Hue Jackson needs strong start after going 1-31 past two seasons. Fantasy Tip: Until Gordon gets up and running, Browns WR Jarvis Landry will likely be feature target for Taylor. Landry led league with 112 catches last season and his 400 in first four years are most by player to start career.
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