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Vancouver Canucks prepare for first game since COVID-19 shutdown

FILE - Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson, left, and goalie Jacob Markstrom, celebrate after a win. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The Vancouver Canucks face off against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday

The matchup comes a day after three exhibition games 'full of energy'

The NHL season was put on pause in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The day Vancouver Canucks fans have been waiting for for months is finally here: it’s game day.

The Canucks take on the Winnipeg Jets in Edmonton, hitting the ice for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the NHL season in early March.

This will be the two clubs’ only exhibition game ahead of the revamped playoff format, which starts this weekend.

Sportsnet 650’s Randip Janda says, if it’s anything like the three tilts on Tuesday, the game will be a good one.

While there have been suggestions from some that players might be taking it easy in this unusual resumption of the season, Janda says the first few puck drops have shown that’s not the case.

“For exhibition games, it was full of energy,” he says of the exhibition games between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, and the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

“And even in that Battle of Alberta game, there was actual physicality. So, it seems like fans are ready but also players. It was a lot more intense than we expected, so you can tell the players are ready, as well.”

Janda says the level of excitement among fans has also been evident just by scanning through social media.

“You could see the level of, I guess, euphoria on Twitter, as well, where people were waiting for that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game to come on at 1 o’clock — yes, 1 o’clock, not your traditional hockey time,” he explains, adding the excitement was across the board for the other two matchups, too.

With only one exhibition game for each team ahead of the modified playoffs, Janda says there’s not much time for teams and their players to get back into the groove of things. That, he thinks, plays a big role in the initial intensity seen on the ice.

“Remember, there are no battles here. There are very few camp battles where players are playing for their jobs. Generally, the rosters are set here, so just to see that intensity, that playoff-like intensity, it was surprising. But you also have to remember: the next game is the playoffs. They only have one exhibition game, so I guess to get mentally prepared, you have to maybe treat this exhibition game like a playoff game,” he says, expecting the same kind of intensity from the Vancouver Canucks.

However, he notes there are a few players who will still need to prove themselves to Coach Travis Green.

Puck drop between the Canucks and Jets is at 7:30 p.m. PT. You can catch the game on both Sportsnet and Sportsnet 650.