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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 3:35 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators-Canucks

The Senators won't have any problem getting up to play in Vancouver Sunday night. Not only is there the "measuring stick" aspect of facing a team that went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last summer, but they've already got a pre-game speech ready.

It will sound a lot like the one they used to end a length drought in Calgary, where they hadn't won since 2003, a streak of five-straight that ended with a 3-1 win on Tuesday.

Ottawa hasn't won in Vancouver since 2004, a drought exacerbated by the lack of head-to-head meetings with Western Conference teams. Still, the Canucks have won seven of the last eight meetings dating back to 2005-06, and done so by a total score of 29-13.

"We have a tape recording of whatever was said in Calgary and we're going to play that again," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "I can't remember exactly what was said but it was a while since we won in there so we'll try to do that. Year to year it is different guys and different scenarios, but obviously we'd like to change that and get a win here."

To do so the Senators will try not to change anything else.

Their yo-yo of a season is back on a winning streak upswing with three-straight victories through four stops of a six-game road trip that will end in Pittsburgh on Friday. Coming off wins in Calgary and Edmonton, they've got a chance to sweep a Western Canadian swing for the first time in franchise history with a win at Rogers Arena Sunday.

It has started with a tighter effort in their end, and needs to include staying out of penalty trouble to keep a 23rd-ranked penalty kill way from the Canucks' No.1 power play.

"These guys were in the Stanley Cup final last year and it's going to take what we've been doing," Phillips said. "A solid effort just trying to keep it simple and force other teams to really work at getting their chances, to not give stuff up, and take advantage of that. It's been working for us lately and we want to keep it going."

Ottawa is expected to so with the same lineup that won in Alberta, including fours goals the last two games from what has been a strong fourth line of late:

SENATORS


Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek

Nick Foligno - Stephane Da Costa - Daniel Alfredsson

Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Bobby Butler

Erik Karlsson - Filip Kuba

Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar

Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson start again in goal, with former Canuck Alex Auld backing up.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 4:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo, Kesler day to day for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler, defenseman Keith Ballard and goalie Roberto Luongo all were missing when the Canucks returned to the ice for practice today.

Given the intense session ended with a 15-minute bag skate, it wasn't a bad time to be away. Of course, that all depends how long they're gone.

In the cases of Kesler and Luongo, coach Alain Vigneault sounded confident it wouldn't be long, with Luongo skating on his own before practice and both listed as a possibility to play the Canucks' next game, Sunday against Ottawa. But Ballard may not return as quickly.

The defenseman left Wednesday's 5-1 loss to Chicago soon after a first-period collision and Vigneault said he is out "indefinitely" with back "issues."

"Butt, back tightened up," Vigneault said. "See how it responds next couple of days."

The Canucks are well equipped to handle Ballard's absence, with NHL-proven Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer waiting on the sidelines. They are less prepared for another extended absence for Kesler, though. He crashed into the end boards with his right shoulder after driving hard to the net late in the second period. The reigning Selke Trophy winner returned to play in the third period, but was receiving treatment after the game, and again Thursday.

"He came in with stiffness, and we decided to give him the day off to take care of his shoulder," Vigneault said, adding there was no concern of a separation. "At this time," Vigneault said he expects Kesler, still trying to find his game after offseason hip surgery, to be ready Sunday.

That's good, because the Canucks are carrying 12 forwards and their depth is depleted after utility forward Andrew Ebbett broke his foot late last week, and fourth-line hopeful Steven Pinizzotto recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.

Vancouver could get Mason Raymond back sooner than expected. Out all season after fracturing a vertebra on an awkward hit by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuck during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, Raymond was cleared for contact after undergoing physical testing prior to Thursday's practice.

"Tests all good, even the strength for upper body was better than anticipated," Vigneault said. "We'll see how he feels here the next couple of days as far as practice."

Vigneault confirmed the decision to send Eddie Lack back to the AHL on Thursday and use an emergency fill-in goalie for a fourth-straight day was based more on the Canucks' lack of salary cap space, but there also is a chance Luongo will be back Sunday. Off the ice since suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury in Sunday's win against the Islanders, Luongo skated for half an hour with goalie coach Roland Melanson before Thursday's practice.

"He's still day to day," Vigneault said.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 5:26 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Schneider gets another shot at Blackhawks

Vancouver's Cory Schneider knows how tough the Blackhawks can be on a goalie.

As the Western Conference's top team in both points (25) and goals (60), Chicago is clearly capable of scoring in bunches and sending a goalie to the showers early. But Schneider knows firsthand they can also knock you off your feet -- literally.

The Canucks' second-year backup was left prone on the ice clutching his cramping quadriceps the last time he faced Chicago, forced to depart in the third period of a surprise Game 6 start in the first round of the playoffs as a result. So as Schneider prepares to play the archrival Blackhawks for the first time in the regular season on Wednesday, he is well-hydrated and ready to be busy.

"They have some of the best high-end skill in the world," said Schneider, who gets the start with No. 1 Roberto Luongo "day-to-day" after suffering an undisclosed "upper-body injury" Sunday. "All their guys are goal scorers but also great play makers, so as soon as you play shot they make a pass for a back-door tap in."

Which can really take a toll on a goaltender forced to try and stay patiently on his skates, ready to react by dropping for a shot, or with a late lateral push. By the time Schneider got through two periods of it in the playoffs, he could already feel muscles "grabbing," and after the second intermission knew he had a problem.

"It was my quads," he said. "When you go sit between periods for 15 minutes, as soon as I got out there for the third I knew something might be up and sure enough, as soon as you sort lock your muscles out like a split, that's when it seizes."

Schneider, who experienced similar problems in the AHL playoffs three years earlier, said he consulted experts both inside and outside the Canucks organization over the summer to try and come up with the right mix of minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes to keep him hydrated before, during and after each game.

"So far, so good," said Schneider, clutching a bottle of pink liquid.

As for playing the hated Hawks, Schneider said no extra stimulants are needed.

"It's definitely in the air when we play these guys, just the hate from some of the past experiences, and I've been around enough to know we don't like them," he said. "It's been a lot of fun to watch this rivalry the last year and getting into a regular season game will be fun, hopefully I can draw on some of the experience I gained last year in the playoffs and see if I can slow these guys down."

And stay standing up himself.

Other than Schneider, the Canucks will stick with the line combinations and defensive pairings that have scored seven goals in four periods since being put together for the third period of a failed comeback in Anaheim on Friday night:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Alexandre Burrows
Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Chris Higgins
Aaron Volpatti - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome

Vancouver called up third-stringer Eddie Lack from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Wednesday morning to back Schneider up. Lack didn't arrive in time for the game-day skate, though, leaving assistant equipment manager Jamie Hendricks to stop pucks for a third-straight day. But with coach Alain Vigneault indicating Lack would be sent back Thursday, it appears Luongo may be back by the next game, Sunday night against visiting Ottawa.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 4:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hawks 'likely' to get Bolland back against Canucks

Chicago forward Dave Bolland appears set to return from a foot injury on Wednesday, with coach Joel Quenneville saying the center is "likely to play" in Vancouver.

Given the opponent, it's hardly surprising.

Bolland has played a leading role in a rivalry with the Canucks that has become one of the NHL's best and most bitter over the last three seasons. The opportunity to return to his rightful place under the skin of identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin may have simply been too tempting for the skilled agitator to pass up.

"It's always a temptation when we are playing these guys," said Bolland, who missed the previous three games after blocking a shot against St. Louis on Nov. 8. "If it's just taping a boot to my skate or taping anything that would help you feel better, it's always great playing these guys with the kind of rivalry and the hype and everything that goes into games against Vancouver."

Chicago, which is tied with Pittsburgh atop the NHL standings with 25 points, won't have top-pair defenseman Brent Seabrook for what will be the 33rd meeting between these teams the last three-plus seasons, including three straight playoffs. Seabrook, who suffered a "lower-body injury" Sunday after crashing feet-first into the boards, is on the road trip, but didn't skate the last two days.

Bolland has, but was laboring Monday and on the fourth line during the morning skate Tuesday. That could change if it means going up against the Sedins, because he has been like Kryptonite for the winners of the last two Art Ross Trophies.

Bolland missed the first three games of last spring's first-round playoff meeting and the Sedins combined for 9 points while the Canucks took a 3-0 series lead. But with Bolland back, the twins managed just 3 points and were a combined minus-13 in the final four games, while Bolland had 6 points and was plus-6 on his own.

Sure, the twins combined for 7 points during a 6-2 romp in Chicago on Nov. 6, but as the Blackhawks quickly point out, that game was decided on special teams, with the Sedins doing most of their damage on a man advantage unit that went 5-for-6 (they also set up Jannik Hansen for a tap in on the lone even-strength marker).

"They are tough to contain, they are dangerous in so many ways," Quenneville said, adding he had confidence Markus Kruger could do the job if he stays in Bolland's spot on the third line. "And I don't think you ever feel like you got it nailed out there against those guys but (Bolland has) done a nice job."

Whether Bolland plays against the Sedins, there will be no shortage of animosity between two teams that have grown to openly dislike each other.

Patrick Kane said most of the Blackhawks went their separate ways after the Canucks knocked them out in overtime of Game 7 last season, but got back in touch when the Canucks played -- and lost -- Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins almost two months later.

"It seems a lot of us were texting each other back and forth during Game 7 and a lot of us were pretty happy Vancouver didn't win," Kane said with a smile.

"We'll try to keep them out of that position again this year."

Tonight's projected lineup:

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Patrick Sharp
Bryan Bickell - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Steve Montador
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Sami Lepisto - John Scott

Corey Crawford will start in net and Ray Emery will back him up.

Don't be surprised if Bolland and Kruger flip-flop against the Sedins.

The odd man out is Rostislav Olesz, who Quenneville confirmed has been put on waivers after playing just six of the first 18 games, despite earning $3.4-million this season on a contract with two more years and $8.25-million left on it after this one. Quenneville didn't want to say what might happen to Olesz, who was acquired from Florida in exchange for defenseman Brian Campbell, until the waiver period has passed.

"His opportunity was limited but sometimes you earn opportunity as you go along," he said. "He hasn't produced at the rate -- and I'm not necessarily talking about production but his overall game -- maybe we were looking for."

On defense, Montador moves up to play with Keith, while Lepisto gets his first action in five games alongside  Scott on the third pairing. As for Seabrook, Quennevilel said he is "progressing really well but out tonight."
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Posted On Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 3:28 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nabokov stars against familar foe in Vancouver

Evgeni Nabokov may only be 1-3 with the New York Islanders, but he’s got a long history of success against the Vancouver Canucks he can draw upon – or not.

Heading into Sunday’s meeting, Nabokov put little credence in a 14-6-2 record compiled against the Canucks during nine seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

“To be honest with you I never really look at it that way because every game is a little different,” Nabokov said. “They have a little bit different team and I am obviously on a different team, so I don’t ever look in the past and say ‘oh I have that type of record so it is going to be a good game or a bad game.’ ”
 
The truth is Nabokov is too busy trying to get used to his own team to worry much about the opponent. The veteran Russian’s first season with the Islanders hasn’t been made easier by a three-goalie rotation with Rick Dipietro and Al Montoya. Asked about his adjustment to a new team, Nabokov said, “I would tell you much more if I would play much more, but it’s a little bit different obviously with the rotation of the three goalies. We try to work on certain things in practice.”

Nabokov started the season watching five of the first six games – three from the press box and two more as the backup – then played three straight before getting hurt Oct. 27 against Pittsburgh and sitting out the next three games. He returned in Boston Nov. 7, but only lasted 14 minutes after giving up three goals on 12 shots, and started a two-game western swing back in the press box Thursday in Colorado.

DiPietro will back up Sunday. Al Montoya practiced Saturday in Vancouver, but is being held out for precautionary reasons after getting knocked around during Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Avalanche. Nabokov spent parts of practice stressing communication with his defensemen, all part of the adjustment.

“It’s coming along but always every game is a learning curve to see what certain guys like to do and so how I react to certain things,” Nabokov said after practice Saturday. “I felt like I need to learn more about them and how they like to get open, to hear their voices and what they like to say and all that.”

As for the Canucks, Nabokov is trying not to overthink his history.

“You make things complicated sometimes,” he said. “Just go, react and play and read the play when it is presented. To sit here and think what Sedins going to do, what Kesler going to do, what Salo is going to do, I think I would drive myself nuts.”

The Islanders didn’t skate as a team Sunday morning, but defenseman Milan Jurcina was out for extra work with a couple coaches, a strong indication he will be a healthy scratch for a second-straight game, with Mike Mottau in for him. Nothing is expected to change up front despite having scored the fewest goals (28) in the league, so here are the rest of the lines for Michael Grabner’s return to Vancouver – now on a top line, an opportunity he wouldn’t have gotten with the Canucks:

Michael Grabner - John Tavares - Matt Moulson
Brian Rolston - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau
Blake Comeau - Marty Reasoner - Kyle Okposo
Jay Pandolfo - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
 
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau
 
Evgeni Nabokov starts, with Rick Dipietro backing up and Al Montoya scratched
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Posted On Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 3:06 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks show flashes, search for consistency

The Vancouver Canucks will try to bring the final period of a six-game road trip home with them – and leave the period that preceded it in the rear-view mirror for good – when they play host to the struggling New York Islanders on Sunday night.

Vancouver showed how dominant it could still be while outshooting Anaheim 22-2 and scoring three times in the third period to make things interesting Friday. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the defensive collapse that spotted the Ducks a four-goal lead, resulting in a 4-3 loss to finish the recent trip with a 3-3-0 record.

In a lot of ways, those final two periods have been a microcosm of a Canucks’ season that is stuck at .500 and yet to meet the expectations set a year ago. There have been stretches where they look like the team that won the President’s Trophy and came within a game of adding the Stanley Cup. But too often they have been undone by a lack of either of execution or intensity as several key players try to rediscover their form.

"When we've been at our best, we've shown we're a better team,” captain Henrik Sedin said after a morning skate Sunday. “You've got to show up for 60 minutes each game and we haven't done that. There have been games where we've been good for 50 minutes, but those 10 minutes where we haven't played our best have hurt us.”

Coach Alain Vigneault said the inconsistency comes down to half a dozen shifts, and is, "all abot being a professional."

"You look at the at road trip and in my mind we should have won five out of six games," Vigneault said. "But there is five or six percent of those games where for whatever reason we are not making the right plays and when we don't make the right plays the puck ends up in the back of our net. We’re not that far off, but we’re five or six per cent off and that's six, seven shifts in a game that are hurting us right now."

Given how things finished in Anaheim, it should be no surprise that the Canucks are expected to start with a similar lineup against the Islanders, even if some might be surprised to see Jannik Hansen alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin in place of Alex Burrows.

Hansen scored twice in the final frame, and three of his four goals this season have come on the right side of the Sedins, including one in Chicago three games ago.

“There’s a good chance that’s what we’re going to do,” coach Alain Vigneault said of leaving Friday’s third-period lines intact. “We came on real strong there.”

Here are the rest of those lines from the end of the Anaheim game, though it’s still possible David Booth could move back onto the second line with Ryan Kesler, with Chris Higgins dropping back and moving across to the right side of the third:
 
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Alex Burrows
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - David Booth
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Vancouver’s defensive pairings will again include Aaron Rome, who was not suspended after receiving a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for elbowing after Friday’s high hit on Anaheim forward Devante Smith-Pelley. Rome got a call from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, and said the conversation will help in the future.

"Those calls are good to let you know where you stand and what you can and can't do so there's not a grey area. It was good in that sense,” said Rome, who was suspended for the final four games of the Stanley Cup Finals for a late hit on Boston’s Nathan Horton. “We had a good conversation. He let me know what I can and can't do. He let me know the decision process and where the league is coming from and wants the players to have a sense of what's legal and what's not. … It was close.”

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome

Roberto Luongo will be back in goal for the Canucks Sunday after getting pulled after four goals on 10 shots in the second period in Anaheim.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 3:29 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Thomas unveils mask for cancer awareness

Tim Thomas has joined the legions of moustaches in November.
 
Actually Thomas has long had a somewhat famous soup strainer of his own. But now his goaltending mask does too, as the Boston Bruins' star unveiled a new moustache-themed lid prior to Saturday's game in Toronto, and plans to raffle it off for charity later.
 
The campaign, which launched Saturday through a partnership with InGoal Magazine and The Tim Thomas Foundation, is designed to raise money and to benefit cancer awareness. Raffle tickets will be sold throughout the month, and one lucky winner will be chosen Dec. 16 to take three friends to a Bruins game, meet Thomas and go home with his game-worn Moustache Mask.
 
As Thomas points out, the mission of his foundation is to "support the underdog" whether the underdog position was developed due to lack of opportunity, lack of education, illness or a disaster.

"I would like to help remove some of the barriers to open opportunities for full, rewarding successful lives,” Thomas said. “The barrier may be a lack of a hot meal, lack of specialized training, a disease or a tragic event. My goals include the support of disease research and awareness, disaster relief efforts for people in our communities, food banks similar to the ones I worked at when I was a kid, or educational programs that provide future opportunities. Our November fundraiser is to benefit Prostate Cancer and we hope to help eliminate barriers associated with the cancer disease. This cause is close to my heart and we are offering a raffle for an incredible prize."
 
This mask features an image of Lord Horatio Kitchener made famous on a recruiting poster in England during World War I, as well as a new, moustachioed take on the "Beware the Bear" logo that Thomas usually features on the backplate of his everyday mask, altered now to "Beware of the Stache."

For more information, please visit http://ingoalmag.com/masks/moustache-mask/
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Posted On Saturday, 10.29.2011 / 4:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks shake up lines, search for offense

The Canucks’ new American Express line is no more.

With the offense racking up a deficit, Vancouver cut up that card after just two games together, leaving David Booth, the newcomer that made it possible, with fellow Michigan native Ryan Kesler on the second line, but dropping New York native Chris Higgins down to the third unit.

It is not, however, an indictment of Higgins' play. Rather it is an indication of how well he's playing, and the Canucks acknowledging they need more balance on a struggling third line.
With the Washington Capitals in town Saturday night, Cody Hodgson will move back to the second line -- this time on the right side -- after centering the third for two games, and Higgins switches over to his natural left wing on the third unit, a spot he played last season and a move he openly welcomes.

“I played 95 percent of eight years on the left side of the rink,” Higgins said. “I’m way more comfortable on the left side. Going to the right side you are picking passes off your backhand. Pucks round the boards are a different look. It’s more a comfort thing. Responsibilities are exactly the same but your look on the ice and the way you position your body is completely different.”

The focus amidst the lineup change is on offense.

Shutout for the third time in just 10 games Wednesday after leading the League in scoring last season, and having given up the first goal in eight of 10 after scoring it 49 times last season, the Canucks now sit 20th in scoring.

Ask Daniel Sedin though, and he says the problems start in their own end. While much of the focus has been on the struggles of goalie Roberto Luongo, who is back in against Washington, he’s not alone in the blame game. After patiently waiting for other teams to make mistakes and then capitalizing on the turnovers last season -- Vancouver topped the NHL in goals against last year but is now 22nd -- Sedin said his team has been the one trying to force the issue too often.

“The last few games a lot has been said about us not scoring the first goal and it’s almost like we’ve been cheating to get the first goal and that cannot be the case,” he said. “We have to get back and play real good defensively. That’s our game, that’s’ how we win games. Usually it’s tight going into the third period and the other team has to take chances and we score some more goals.”

That focus should come easier against a Capitals team that is getting it done at both ends after paying more attention to their own the last two seasons. Washington had its perfect 7-0-0 start ended with a 2-1 loss in Edmonton on Thursday, but remains fourth in the League defensively and first in scoring.

“We like to be strong defensively but especially when you have a team that have four lines that can score goals,” Alex Burrows said. “You gotta make sure you are strong in that area, limit their time and space, and make sure you have more numbers than they do. It will be a challenge but we are looking forward to it.”

The Capitals were similarly complimentary of the Canucks, focusing on their Presidents’ Trophy and run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, rather than a 4-5-1 start to this season and consecutive losses this week.

“It’s a great gauge for us because we’re playing as good a team as there is in the NHL,’’ coach Bruce Boudreau said, “And we’re going to get their best game, so we’ll see how good we can be. We’ll see if we can rise to the occasion.”

As for his own team, Boudreau acknowledged teams usually start slipping before a win streak comes to an end, but stressed that wasn’t the case this time.

Washington outshot Edmonton 35-19 but couldn’t solve Nikolai Khabibulin.

“Usually at the end of a winning streak you are ready to lose, that’s why losing streaks follow winning streaks,” he said. “But I would say the last three games we played have been our best three out of the eight we’ve played. So hopefully we can have a continuation of that, because we’re going to need it.”

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:
 
VANCOUVER

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Cody Hodgson
Chris Higgins - Manny Malhotra - Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Alexander Sulzer
 
Sulzer will play a second straight game ahead of Andrew Alberts after impressing coach Alain Vigneault in his Canucks’ debut on Wednesday.
 
“He showed a lot of poise,” Vigneault said. “I liked the way he handled the puck and moved the puck and thought in one-on-one situations he was really solid.”
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal after getting pulled from his last start in Edmonton on Tuesday, and watching Cory Schneider get his fourth start Wednesday against St. Louis. Schneider didn’t start his fourth game until mid-November last season.
 
WASHINGTON
 
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Alexander Semin - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Mathieu Perreault
 
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
Jeff SchultzSean Collins
 
Tomas Vokoun makes his eighth straight start while backup Michal Neuvirth continues to work his way back in practice from a bruised foot, with boudreau indicting he’ll play in one of the back-to-back games next week.

“Michal had two good practices under his belt in the last two weeks and you’d like to see him have another good one or two before he gets a chance to play again,” Boudreau said. “I think next week would be a really good time.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 4:56 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Battle of the backups as Canucks host Blues

VANCOUVER -- It will be a battle of backup goalies playing decidedly better than their team's would-be No. 1s when the St. Louis Blues visit the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
 
Blues backup Brian Elliott makes his third-straight start ahead of a struggling Jaroslav Halak for St. Louis, while Cory Schneider hopes to pick up where he left off after replacing embattled Canucks starter Roberto Luongo during the second period of Tuesday night's 3-2 loss in Edmonton.
 
The similarities between the two goaltending situations are as startling as the state of both team's starters.
 
Luongo, a notorious slow starter in October, is 2-3-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and .868 save percentage after giving up three goals on 14 shots during a just over five minutes in the second period Tuesday. Schneider, who stopped all eight shots in relief, has a .935 save percentage in four appearances.
 
Similarly, Halak is sitting out with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage in favor of Elliott, who is sporting the same .935 as Schneider.
 
If there's a difference, it's that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault insists starting Schneider was always part of the plan for these back-to-back games, which should mean Luongo won't be watching for long. But his counterpart, Blues coach Davis Payne, has clearly deviated from his plan by going with the hot hand over the more proven commodity for three straight games. And while he said that won't last forever, he wasn't ready to talk about when Halak might start next.
 
"You can't have a guy sitting there forever and then all of a sudden put him in," Payne said. "You’re setting a guy up for a pretty tough spot and we're not going to do that to a guy we know we're going to count on a lot -- and in heavy volume. Jaro is our goaltender, he's a great goaltender and he's going to win a lot of hockey games for us this year."
 
While Luongo is expected to be back in goal against Washington on Saturday to work out of what has become an annual October funk, Halak sounded less certain about both his next start and the philosophy of not letting him play through the early problems.
 
"Brian has been playing good, he won some games and obviously the coach wants to ride a goalie that won the game for him," Halak said. "Each goalie would love to play as much as he can but I didn't have a good start and the coach feels more confident with Brian, so here we are. I just need to stay sharp."
 
While the goalie stays the same, the Blues get their No. 1 center back with David Backes returning after missing the second half of Saturday's win in Philadelphia as the result of a collision with big Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.
 
"Precautionary measures," Backes said after skating Monday morning. "Airing on the side of caution with big hits like that is going to become more the norm and because we took precautions like that I am able to be 100 percent tonight. ... There have been some hard lessons learned here in St. Louis."
 
Vigneault hinted at other possible changes, but with only five players on the ice after playing the night before it's hard to tell if they will be anything more than a continuation of the defensive pairings shakeup that occurred in Edmonton, with Keith Ballard and Kevin Bieksa, who are each minus-7, split up. The rest should remain intact, with David Booth playing his second game on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins after being acquired from Florida on Saturday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 4:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Blues, Canucks

These are how the lineups could look when the Vancouver Canucks face the St. Louis Blues tonight at Rogers Arena:

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Alexander Edler
Keith Ballard - Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts - Sami Salo

Cory Schneider starts in goal with Roberto Luongo serving as his backup.

BLUES
Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott starts in goal with Jaroslav Halak serving as his backup.
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Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley