BIEKSA CLEARED TO PLAY
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa has been cleared to play after missing 27 games with an ankle laceration.
He suffered a similar injury two seasons ago on his other leg which helped in his successful recovery.
"I knew what to expect, I knew to be patient, especially at the beginning," said Bieksa. "Once I started working out, things started to progress."
He has played in 40 games this season recording one goal and 15 assists. Whether Bieksa will play tomorrow against the Ottawa Senators will be a game-day decision.
"He did look pretty good today," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "He's been practicing for quite some time and he's been improving every day, we were just waiting for medical clearance."
MITCHELL POPS IN
Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell popped in today to see his teammates. He has missed 19 games due a concussion he suffered against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 16.
He is still not yet symptom free and is considered day-to-day.
"I saw Willie today for the first time in six weeks," said Vigneault. "He looked pretty good, seemed to be in real good spirits. Obviously he's not symptom free yet, he was really happy to be around his teammates, but with concussions you never know so we'll see what happens here in the the next little while."
SENATORS COME TO TOWN
The Canucks are finally home after 14 road games and will play their first home game tomorrow against the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s nice to be home,” said Roberto Luongo. “It’s been awhile, and it’ll be nice to play in front of the fans tomorrow.”
It will be the teams’ final meeting this season. Last year the Canucks won the series 2-0 but were defeated 3-1 this season on February 4.
Before leaving on the longest road trip in NHL history, the Canucks were 10-11-1 on the road. They pushed hard to improve that record and after going 8-5-1 record in their last 14 road games and are now two games above .500 at 18-16-2 - fourth best in the Western conference.
“8-5-1 isn’t too bad, especially the way we ended it off, back to back games that we did pretty well in,” said Ryan Kesler. “It’s something we can hang our hats on and look forward to saying we are a pretty good road team.”
Head coach Alain Vigneault will most likely keep the Canucks forward lines in tact from last game, including the top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Mikael Samuelsson, who have recorded 19 points combined since they were put together in the third period against the Nashville Predators on March 7.
“Right now they seem to be finding ways to create scoring chances, put pucks in the net, and we’re going to stick with it for a little while,” said Vigneault.
The Canucks are still first in their division with 85 points (41-23-3), just three ahead of the Colorado Avalanche (38-23-6). The Senators are second in the Northeast division and fifth in the East with 79 points (37-26-5). They are two points shy of the Buffalo Sabres (36-20-9) who currently lead their division.
“I just look at Ottawa tomorrow as a team that’s playing well and that has some agitators. So I think for our group right now, keeping the focus on what we need to do should not be a big issue.”
Senator forward and former Canuck of six seasons Jarkko Ruutu (10-10-20) describes himself as being one of the NHL’s biggest agitators. Although Vigneault wasn’t his coach during his tenure in Vancouver, he’s no doubt familiar with his style of play.
”The biggest thing is, you have to take their time and space away and see where they’re at mentally,” Ruutu told Rob Brodie from Senators.com. “When they’re frustrated, it’s easy to get them over the edge. Some guys don’t even bother (responding) because they’re not emotionally involved. Guys that are emotionally involved in the game, it’s a lot easier to push them over the edge and frustrate them.”
The Canucks have proven to have success at home with a 23-7-1 record overall and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games at GM Place, including five consecutive wins before heading out on the road in late January.
Game time is 7:00pm on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC tomorrow night.