If the Vancouver Canucks play Friday like they practised on Thursday, Bo Horvat will skate against the Washington Capitals with his fifth different combination of wingers this season – one for each goal he scored during his team’s first nine games.
It’s the NHL; things change by the shift.
But both Horvat and coach Travis Green were looking forward to less churn this season than last, when the Canucks’ workhorse centre was dared to play with 30 different sets of wingers and finished with 27 goals and 61 points despite the turnstiles on his flanks.
No wonder Green and general manager Jim Benning said before this season that the summer acquisitions of forwards J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland were intended, partly, to provide stability for Horvat.
He hasn’t seen it.
A promising combination of Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Miller lasted just two games before Green moved Miller alongside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser to get the Canucks’ young scoring stars going.
Pearson, however, stayed with Horvat until the third period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win in Detroit. On Thursday, Pearson practised with third-line centre Brandon Sutter and winger Josh Leivo, while Ferland, the most transient piece of Green’s lineup so far, skated with Horvat and Jake Virtanen.
"It doesn’t really surprise me; it happened last year," Horvat said after Thursday’s workout at Rogers Arena. "Obviously, (Travis) is still trying to feel guys out early in the season. I think once we get rolling and guys get playing to their potential everywhere around the room, things will stick.
"I like to think I can play with anybody and make everybody around me better. That’s what I try to do every single night, no matter who I’m playing with."
At training camp last month, Horvat said "it would be great, I’m not going to lie" to finally have regular partners.
Pearson has been the one constant, Horvat’s winger since his trade to the Canucks from the Pittsburgh Penguins last February.