It may not mean anything in the standings, but it means everything to the guys trying to crack the opening night roster. With only two games left to get up to speed and two games to figure out who's in and who's out, for some it's the last chance to make a lasting impression.
After dressing a veteran laden line-up Wednesday night, the Canucks were back to their pre-season reality, icing another line-up full of bubble boys.
Canucks Nation can rest easy though, as it would appear the audition process has finally come to an end. The Canucks will be looking to ice their opening day line-up come Saturday night in their last tune-up game before the regular season opens on October 6th against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Thursday’s game marked the first time veterans Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins, and Manny Malhotra all got into pre-season action and they played on a line together.
After being the feel good story of last year’s playoffs, coming back from an almost career-ending eye injury for Game 2 of the Cup Finals, it was back to business for Manny Malhotra. Some eyebrows were raised when training camp rolled around and it was revealed that Malhotra wasn't guaranteed to be on the opening night roster. Fans wondered how it's possible for a player to be cleared for action in June, but not cleared to play in September. Malhotra had a couple eye procedures in the summer, but he's passed all the tests and he is ready to play.
Sporting a new look, as Malhotra shed the birdcage and was wearing a half visor. Something he has clearly adapted to quickly, coming out strong in the first, winning 6-of-7 draws he took. Malhotra was second in the league last season in face-off percentage until he went down with the serious eye injury and Canucks will be looking for more of the same from their face-off specialist.
Not only did Malhotra look good in his pre-season game, it looks like some of his face-off skills may be rubbing off on Cody Hodgson, who is penciled in for the second line centre job as long as he can ward off Andrew Ebbett.
Hodgson went 4-for-4 on draws in the first period and looked well on his way to sealing up Kesler's regular spot in the line-up after a strong first period showing.
The score remained knotted at zeros after Thomas Greiss and Cory Schneider gave away nothing with near perfect positioning by both goalies in the first.
Alain Vigneault even pulled Schneider with 5 seconds left in the first and the face-off deep in the Sharks zone to try and strike first, but it was in vein.
It was their play that should have done the talking, but it was actually two missed opportunities that took the wind out of their sails.
The Canucks received two separate five on three power plays in which they didn't generate enough offence.
San Jose gained some momentum after killing the Canucks first two-man advantage and scored on a nifty passing play between Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. The all-Joe connection played pass to the right of Schneider, with Pavelski finishing off the play top shelf.
Nearing the end of the second period is when the bad blood started to boil over as Jamie McGinn went after Keith Ballard for retribution for Ballard's hard hip check on Logan Couture.
The fist-a-cuffs didn't stop there as Brad Winchester squared off against Aaron Volpatti. Volpatti made short work of Winchester as he tagged him with a thunderous blow that seemed to TKO the Shark player. Two face-offs later it was try-out Todd Fedoruk dropping the mitts with Vandermeer as they must have felt left out of the tough guy antics.
Jannik Hansen made a last minute play to try and tie up the score by whipping a puck from behind the net and bouncing it off Vlassic's shoulder and into the blue paint, but it was swept to safety.
Sharks continued their hard play in the third recording goals from Dan Boyle and Jamie McGinn. At the end of the day it was one NHL roster against one roster full of NHL auditions, with the later just not having what it takes to keep up with San Jose's big guns.
Schneider finished with 33 saves in the losing effort while Greiss improved his pre-season record to 4-0 recording a 25 save shutout for a 3-0 win over the Canucks.