Two days have passed since the Vancouver Canucks opened the third round against the San Jose Sharks. On Monday the team had an optional skate, but on Tuesday it was back to business.
“All year what we’ve tried to do is stay in the moment,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “Today our moment was the practice to get ourselves ready both physically and mentally to play for tomorrow.”
Only Mikael Samuelsson, who suffered an injury in Game 5 against Nashville, was missing from the ice at UBC Thunderbird Arena. An update on the veteran forward’s status will be released by the club shortly, according to Vigneault.
Jeff Tambellini skated on the fourth line with Cody Hodgson and Victor Oreskovich in place of Tanner Glass. Coach V said lineup changes for Game 2 are under consideration.
“Tanner is more of a physical presence and Jeff is more speed and skill, good puck management. Both bring different components and we’ll see what we want to do tomorrow.”
In the meantime, the Canucks took advantage of their time on the ice to prepare for their second dose of the Sharks.
“Sometimes you say you play like you practice,” said Vigneault. “We’ve always been a very good practice team that executes real well and works real hard.”
And how did Tuesday’s practice stack up?
“It was real good, so we’ll be real good,” grinned coach V.
Manny Geared Up
Gone was the blue tracksuit when Manny Malhotra joined the Canucks practice for the third time in five days.
The injured forward, who has been sidelined indefinitely since taking a puck to the eye on March 16th, skated in full gear with his teammates on Tuesday.
While the team is encouraged to see Malhotra on the ice, he has not been cleared for contact. The club has no expectation or plan for the third line centre to return to the lineup this post-season.
“It’s just about having him around the team,” said Vigneault, who declined questions regarding Malhotra’s health status. “He’s been a very important part of our leadership group.”
Despite his absence on the third line, Malhotra continues to work closely with his teammates and coaching staff, lending his expertise on faceoffs and the penalty kill.
In Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, five Canucks defensemen tallied at least one shot on net. Alex Edler was the odd man out but just barely as all three of his shots were blocked.
Needless to say, the six-pack on the blue line does more than just defend.
“When you have six guys who are mobile and can skate, especially with Dan [Hamhuis] and I, either one of us can jump up at any time,” said Canucks defenseman, Kevin Bieksa. “I think it’s dangerous for another team to defend.”
Bieksa proved just how dangerous he can be on Sunday, scoring his second goal of the playoffs to tie the game midway through the third period. Fellow defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff, later assisted Henrik Sedin’s game-winning goal.
“I don’t think in today’s NHL that you can have a good offensive team if you don’t have a good backend,” said coach Vigneault, who credits his defensemen’s hockey sense and skill for their presence on the scoresheet.
“Our backend right now is the best it’s ever been.”