The Vancouver Canucks schedule is jam-packed tighter than the grid-locked Western Conference standings with the Canucks facing the St. Louis Blues in the second of back-to-back games Tuesday, but Alain Vigneault is preaching patience as his team works through a tough stretch.
"I believe we are being tested as a group," said Vigneault. "I believe, and I think our team believes, that we played well enough in our last two games to win those last two games."
The Canucks find themselves in some unfamiliar territory sitting second in the Northwest division and seventh in the Western Conference. It's hardly the spot Vigneault hoped to be at the half-way mark of the season, but he's also not surprised given the strength of the Western Conference.
"We've known since day one that this was going to be a huge challenge. Maybe other people did not know, or did not want to believe it, or did not see it, but within our staff and within our players this was going to be a real big challenge."
The Blues come to Vancouver riding a three-game winning streak and may have the hottest player in the NHL in Chris Stewart, who picked up 1st Star of the Week honours with seven points in three games.
"They are a big team. They are a heavy team. They have defenceman that join the rush and they look like another solid conference team."
Zack is Back
To counter that St. Louis size, Zack Kassian will return to the line-up after sitting out Monday's game with a back injury.
After rocketing out the gate with five goals in his first seven games, Kassian has gone dry going 19 games without a goal, a stat he certainly hasn't forgotten.
"It's never fun when you haven't scored in a while and especially when your team's struggling to score goals, you definitely want to score goals," said the 22 year-old winger.
With Ryan Kesler still out with a broken foot and David Booth sidelined with an ankle injury, another Chicago Wolves call-up, Andrew Ebbett, is being asked to pick up the offensive load.
"There's always pressure here when you're only scoring one or two goals a game. we just have to do a better job getting traffic to the net, we got to get two or three guys there and bury our chances," said Ebbett.
The Vernon, BC, native had a three point night skating with Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond and says he feels the line is close to recapturing that production.
"Hopefully just a little bit of puck luck and we need to bear down just a little bit more. We talked about it a little bit this morning and I think we will be a lot better tonight."
Alain Vigneault would not comment on who would be coming out of the Canucks line-up with the return of Kassian.
Schneider gets the call
Cory Schneider will get the start tonight after watching the last four games. It's been a while between starts, but Schneider hopes to provide himself with a belated birthday (he turned 27 yesterday) win.
"It's going to be a tough test," said Schneider. "You want to get into a rhythm and get busy and get your feet wet."
Schneider, who has gone over two weeks between wins, is eager for the chance to get back between the pipes despite not getting a lot of offensive help of late.
"Every game I play I want to be the diffence maker. I want to be the guy who helps my team win. We take a lot of pride in the past few years. We've accepted that role of having to steal a game every now and then."
This is the second of three games against the Blues for the Canucks this year. St. Louis took the first game in a 4-3 shootout victory. A Canucks win in regulation would draw Vancouver even with the Blues at 34 points.