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With Raymond out, Canucks need a replacement

Tuesday, 06.14.2011 / 9:45 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Final - Canucks v Bruins

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

VANCOUVER -- Canucks GM Mike Gillis was given a chance to criticize officials Tuesday for not calling a penalty against Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk for a hit during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final that fractured the vertebrae of Mason Raymond.

Boychuk and Raymond became tangled near the boards deep in the Bruins zone during the opening minute of the first period. Raymond was driven into the boards backside first by Boychuk and did not return to the game.

Raymond was diagnosed with a vertebrae compression fracture, the team announced Tuesday.

"If we get Mason Raymond back by November we will be very happy," said Gillis.
Unlike during the first round when Gillis expressed displeasure with officials before Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks, he took the high road at Rogers Arena on the eve of the deciding at the Stanley Cup Final.

"That's a question I don't think I can answer without getting myself into trouble under any circumstances, so I'm not going to answer that," Gillis said. "It isn't right for me to speculate or to comment on officiating."

But when it came to the lack of a supplementary discipline for a hit that will sideline Raymond through at least November, Gillis didn't hold his tongue.

"I haven't had any discussion with (the League) after last night," Gillis said. "All I can tell you is my observations of the hit. I didn't see the puck around him. I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back.  That's what I saw.

"I'm not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I'm not the right person to ask about that. I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me, very, very dangerous. I'm always disappointed when you see any player get injured. I was asking (Assistant GM) Laurence (Gilman) when the last time we saw a broken back occur in the NHL. I can't recall it other than an incident here a number of years ago.

"But it wasn't a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae. It's broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it's a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that."

Suspension or not, the Canucks will have to play for the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night without a key member of their second line. It's the second major injury in the series for the Canucks, who lost defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a lower-body injury early in Game 1. Coach Alain Vigneault left open the possibility that Hamhuis could come back for a Game 7, saying there was a chance an injured player could return.

Vigneault has a lot of different options at his disposal for replacing Raymond. During most of the first and second period of Game 6, it was third-liner Jannik Hansen who saw a bulk of the time on Raymond's line with Ryan Kesler and Christopher Higgins. If Vigneault decides to stay with Hansen on the second line, he could bring Jeff Tambellini back into the lineup to play on the third line with Raffi Torres and Maxim Lapierre. Tambellini has played in just five postseason games, but three have come during the Stanley Cup Final.

Raymond had 15 goals in 70 regular-season games, but just two in 24 playoff games. Hansen had 9 goals in 82 regular-season games and three in 24 playoff games.

As is customary in the playoffs, Vigneault isn't tipping his hand. But he expects the trials and tribulations of injuries the team went through during the regular season to benefit the Canucks in the final game of the season.

"For us, injuries and adversity have been part of our daily routine throughout this season and we faced every one of them head on," Vigneault said. "It's very unfortunate for Mason not to be able to play in the seventh game, but the guys that we have available are going to jump on the opportunity."

Following in their coaches steps, Higgins didn't offer any insight on what it would mean to have Tambellini on the second line.

"We don't know who is going to play yet," Higgins said. "We just had a six-hour flight across the country, so we're not too sure what's going on yet.  We'll regroup tonight and figure out our game plan."

The Canucks delayed their flight home from Boston on Tuesday for several hours in the hopes that Raymond could join them. But the injury was so severe that Raymond needed to stay in the hospital for at least another day or two, Gillis said.

Gillis also said he didn't know why trainers didn't immobilize Raymond with his spinal injury and allowed Kesler and Higgins to carry him to bench.

"I'm unsure," Gillis said. "I think because he began to move his feet and he had feeling. We wondered about that as well, but I haven't had the chance to ask Mike (Burnstein, head trainer).  But our trainers are excellent trainers, so I'm sure they felt there was no risk at that point because of what he was saying and what he was doing on the ice."

The Bruins used Aaron Rome's devastating hit on Nathan Horton as a rallying point. Since Horton was lost for the season because of the hit during Game 3, the Bruins are 3-1 and one win away from a championship. Perhaps the Canucks can do the same and use Raymond's season-ending injury for a little more motivation in Game 7.

"We've dealt with injuries the entire year," Kesler said. "I think for us, we've lost many guys this year to injuries. It's going to be the same thing: go about business as usual, work extremely hard and just do business that way.

"Obviously Mason is a popular guy on the team and we would love to have him in there," Higgins said. "It's unfortunate that he can't play and we would love to win this one for him and for ourselves, too."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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