VANCOUVER -- Almost lost amid the shock of Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo starting the team's Stanley Cup Playoff opener Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) was the absence of center Ryan Kesler from the morning skate.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault promised there would be no more surprises before the puck drops for Game 1, insisting Kesler exercised the option on an optional practice, despite the fact every other Vancouver player took part.
"We've got him locked up in the back, we're feeding him raw meat," Vigneault said with a laugh. "The beast will be ready tonight."
Kesler may be healthy for the first time in the playoffs since tearing his hip labrum while helping the Canucks beat the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals two years ago, but each team is missing key players heading into the rematch of that 2011 series.
Vancouver is without defenseman Christopher Tanev, who missed the final 10 games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Instead they are dressing rookie Frank Corrado, who was playing junior hockey less than three weeks ago, on a third pairing with Andrew Alberts, who was a healthy scratch for the first 17 games this season and didn't play at all in last year's playoffs.
San Jose is missing defenseman Jason Demers, who has a sprained ankle but could return sometime during the series. Coach Todd McLellan wouldn't reveal whether he'd replace him with speedy rookie Matt Tennyson or physical veteran Scott Hannan, but Hannan was taking a regular turn in the morning skate, and Tennyson stayed out later after practice working with the assistant coaches.
The Sharks also are missing veteran center Scott Gomez, who missed the final two games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Gomez, who centers the fourth line and second power-play unit, could return in Game 2.
"It affects us power play-wise and what you don't see or hear is it affects us on the bench and in the locker room," McLellan said. "The guy has won two Stanley Cups, and over the last three weeks he has almost been like another coach."
Here is how the teams are expected to set their lineups for Game 1: