BAUMGARTNER OUT, ALBERTS IN
Canucks defenceman Nolan Baumgartner is day-to-day with an injury he suffered in game four against the Los Angeles Kings. He will not play in game five on Friday.
Defenceman Andrew Alberts will fill in for Baumgartner. Alberts sat out for the last two games after receiving three minor penalties in game two.
"If you look at the penalties in the series, any little infraction they're going to call," said Alberts. "You just have to be mentally focused on what you're doing out there."
Alberts is second in the league for penalty minutes (23) including four minors and one game misconduct.
"I think right now his teammates believe in him, coaches believe in him and I'm confident that the Vancouver fans believe in him," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "He is what he is. He's a big guy that can play a good defensive game and be physical. We have to make sure that physicality is the right type."
SWEDISH VETERAN PROVES EXPERIENCE PAYS OFF
Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson watched his former team of four seasons, the Detroit Red Wings, have to fight for a playoff spot after making it to the Stanley Cup finals the past two seasons. With the injuries the Red Wings have faced this year, having an asset like Samuelsson may have helped sustain them through the rough patches.
Now that he’s a Canuck, the 33 year old Mariefred, Sweden native has set new career highs in goals (30) and points (53), and netted his first NHL career hat trick on March 10 against the Colorado Avalanche.
After scoring the Canucks’ third goal in game four Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings, Samuelsson is tied for first in the league in goals scored (5) with Washington Capital’s Niklas Backstrom and Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg.
His five goals in four games against LA is the same number he netted in all of last year’s post-season with the Red Wings, where he appeared in all 23 games. Samuelsson (5-1-6) is currently tied with Daniel Sedin (2-4-6) for most points, and leads the team in plus/minus (+5), and shots (18).
"Mikael's the type of player that gives you maximum effort every shift and every practice," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "He has good input in meetings and he has experience in playoff hockey and he's obviously playing well on the ice right now and sharing his experience with his teammates."
His 73 games of playoff experience, second highest on the team, contributes well to the Canucks who want to go all the way this year. He is one of the token players, like Alex Burrows, who produce results when paired with the Sedins. The trio combined for six points in Wednesday’s match (two goals, four assists).
"Sometimes you need a spark, and you need something different," said Henrik Sedin. "He has a lot of speed, and he's strong on the puck. He shows himself that he's been there before and it's going to rub off on guys. It's nice to have someone there, we haven't had that before. He's going to show the younger guys how much it takes and he's been great for us."
DEMO STEPS UP
After 16 seasons in the NHL, Pavol Demitra is playing what might be one of his last playoffs, and definitely made the most of it Wednesday night against the Kings.
The Olympic Pavol Demitra returned in game four after netting a goal on a two-on-one past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. He stepped up his intensity recording three shots, three hits, and two takeaways.
Though Demitra led the Olympics in scoring with 10 points (3-7-10) for Team Slovakia, he registered just 16 points in the regular season (3-13-16), hard to compare to the 2008-09 season where he recorded 53 points (20-33-53). To Demitra’s defence, he did miss 47 games at the beginning of the year with a shoulder injury.
Overall, the 35 year old has appeared in 87 post-season matches, the most on the team, where he netted 55 points (22-33-55).
BEST OF THREE
After a thrilling comeback Wednesday night tying the series 2-2, the Canucks and the Kings will start over in game five on Friday playing for the best of three to claim round one.
The Canucks had to comeback from a one goal deficit on three separate occasions, something they may not want to do every game. The Kings took advantage of the Canucks’ first two penalties combining for nine power-play goals on 16 opportunities so far in the series, while the Canucks have only scored on four opportunities of 15.
The Canucks are still last in the league for the penalty kill with 43.8%. Though the Canucks came back to stop their last two minors in Wednesday’s game, nine of the Kings’ 14 goals so far have been on the PP, whereas 10 of the Canucks’ goals have been on even strength. If the Canucks can buckle down and hold off the Kings during the power-play, the statistics speak for themselves.
"We killed our last two and that was good," said Alex Burrows. "At the same time, we need to be better. They're doing some good things, and we're not getting the bounces that we want. We're going to keep working hard and hopefully tomorrow night we'll be able to do the job."
Coming from last season where Vancouver knocked out the St. Louis Blues in four games in the first round, the Canucks know they face a tougher opponent this time around and that winning one game won’t guarantee you the next.
"That's the way it goes in the playoffs, you win a game and you feel like you have it," said Roberto Luongo. "When you lose a game, you feel like you don't. At the end of the day, we're tied at two and tomorrow's a game that we need to win."