Here's how the lineups could look when the Vancouver Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Rogers Arena:
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had his forward lines in a blender by the end of Sunday's lackluster 4-2 loss to Anaheim, a game in which his team produced two even-strength shots the first 35 minutes. Expect them to be back the way they started against the Kings Tuesday.
That includes the reunited second unit -- the American Express line -- of David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, whose second-unit power play assist against the Ducks was his first point in eight games since coming back from a second blood infection.
"In Chris' case he'd be the first one to tell you that energy-wise, since his second infection, he doesn't feel quite the same," said Vigneault, adding the pills Higgins continues to take daily are taxing his energy levels. "We've got to work with him here and try to get him back to that same energy level where he was one of our most effective players."
Vigneault said it will also take time for Booth, who missed almost six weeks with a knee injury, to get back to top speed, but saw enough promise from the line before Booth's early December injury to give the trio an extended look together. The rest of the lines are also expected to remain intact:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise
Things will be different on the back end, where it's clear the Canucks miss the calming presence of veteran Sami Salo, who will miss a fifth game Tuesday after suffering a concussion when flipped by a low hit from Boston's Brad Marchand back on Jan. 7.
Vigneault said Sunday that Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer are all competing for two spots on the third pairing -- and confirmed Tuesday morning that Alberts will come out of the press box to replace Sulzer in the lineup against LA after Ballard sat out the previous game in St. Louis -- but after a minus-3 outing for Aaron Rome, the bigger problem is a fit alongside Salo's usual partner, Alexander Edler.
As for Salo, he still hasn't skated since the contentious hit, which cost Marchand a five-game suspension, but Vigneault said he talked to him Tuesday and "he is feeling much better and starting the concussion protocols so everything is on the right track."
There was no timeline for a return, but also little question the coach would like to see Salo back soon: Vancouver is 3-5-0 without the oft-injured 37-year-old Finn, and 25-10-3 with him, but more telling are the defensive scrambles and miscues without him.
"We've all said this many, many times -- and the proof is in the stats -- that whenever Sami is in the lineup, we seem to be such a composed team," Vigneault said. "Our breakouts seem to be cleaner and quicker. He's a very important part of our mix. When he's in there, he makes a huge difference to our group."
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Aaron Rome
Andrew Alberts - Keith Ballard
Roberto Luongo is back in goal for a third straight game. Cory Schneider backs him up.
Leading-scorer and captain Anze Kopitar was given a rare day off Monday in Vancouver, which always raises eyebrows given his workhorse, former ironman status with the Kings. But after taking a beating in back-to-back games against Calgary and Edmonton the previous two nights, it was understandable and easy to buy the "maintenance day" explanation offered up by assistant coach John Stevens, who ran things after head coach Daryl Sutter stayed an extra day in Alberta to attend to some to some family matters.
Sure enough Kopitar and Sutter were back on the ice Tuesday to prepare for the Canucks, so the roster is expected to remain intact as Los Angeles tries to go 2-0-1 as they wrap up a tough Western Canadian road trip with their third game in four nights:
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene