Cory Schneider is back in goal for a seventh straight start Thursday against the Nashville Predators, but the team in front of him has changed with the return of Mason Raymond up front and Aaron Rome back in for an injured Sami Salo on defense.
Salo tweaked his groin kicking a puck out of his skates during Tuesday’s 4-1 win against Columbus and was listed as day-to-day by coach Alain Vigneault, who doesn’t think the injury is serious.
Salo’s spot alongside Alexander Edler on the second pairing will be taken by Rome, who hurt his hand blocking a shot four games ago but was ready to return for the last one. With Vancouver winning a season-high five straight, however, he couldn’t get back into the lineup.
“It’s been a mixture of both,” Rome said after a heavily optional game-day skate Thursday morning. “My hand is feeling well but the coach has to make a decision and the guys are playing well and you don’t want to change anything.”
That includes the goaltending, with Roberto Luongo on the bench for a fifth consecutive game as the backup because Schneider has stopped 164 of 168 shots during a win streak that started with Luongo hurt. But it does not extend to the forward group, where Mason Raymond will play his first game since breaking his back in Game 6 of the Cup Final.
Raymond, a top-6 forward with 40 goals over the last two seasons, comes back on a third line with rookie Cody Hodgson at center and fellow speedster Jannik Hansen on the other side. As for what to expect from Raymond, even coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t sure.
“I know physically he feels good,” Vigneault said. “It will be interesting to see mentally how he handles a game. Practicing and playing are two different elements.”
Raymond said he can only control how hard he works, but may feel better after a hit.
“I’ve had some good practice and I’ve had some good bumps but that (first hit) will be a little bit of a benchmark to see how I really feel,” Raymond said of his first game since June 13. “I may feel a little more at ease once I get that first bump.”
Canucks expected lineups:
Malhotra drops down to the fourth line to make room for Raymond, with Aaron Volpatti coming out of the lineup as a healthy scratch
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler – Chris Higgins
Mason Raymond- Cody Hodgson -– Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler – Aaron Rome
Andrew Alberts - Keith Ballard