Forward Ryan Johnson skated with the Canucks for the first time this morning since his foot injury. Johnson has missed eight games, but is improving day-to-day. “It’s coming along good, it’s nice to get on the ice today,” said Johnson after morning practice. “Both of my feet are kind of at the point where I can get back on the ice and now it’s just a matter of keeping them progressing forward and hopefully if that’s the case it won’t be long before I get back in there.”
RJ’s last game played was on December 22 against the Nashville Predators.
Sami Salo is back after getting a stick to his left eye from teammate Willie Mitchell last Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. After missing their Saturday night game against the Calgary Flames due to being unable to open his eye, Sami feels well enough to play tonight with the Canucks as they battle the Nashville Predators.
“Yeah at least I can see now so we’re good to go,” said Salo after morning practice.
Defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Alexandre Edler were given almost ten minutes more ice time in Saturday’s game against the Flames in Salo’s absence, Ehrhoff with 32:20 and Edler with 32:26. Having him back will retrieve the familiarity in the team’s first line.
“Obviously Sami’s a big part of our shutdown pair with Willie,” said Roberto Luongo. “They play well together and they play a big role for us when they’re on the ice against the other team’s top line so it’ll be nice to have him back for sure.”
“When you lose Sami, such a key player, that’s 20-25 key minutes for your hockey team,” said Alexandre Burrows. “Having him back is going to help the power play and just getting the puck out of the zone.”
So far in the season Sami has 11 points with four goals and seven assists. Due to his return, recently re-called defender Evan Oberg has been reassigned to the Manitoba Moose. He played on Saturday night with the Canucks against Calgary.
Steve Bernier did not attend the morning skate with the Canucks because of a minor injury from the match verses Calgary.
“He tweaked a groin in the last game, so he’s day-to-day,” said Coach Alain Vigneault.
Pavol Demitra is still recovering from his shoulder injury and will not play tonight against the Predators, but is almost there. He has been skating with the Canucks at the last few practices.
“This is the last step for me,” said Demitra. “My legs and my shooting are feeling fine. Now I just have to get comfortable when somebody’s on me and somebody’s trying to hit me and make sure my shoulder is one hundred percent ready to go.”
Defenceman Aaron Rome, who suffered a cut on his face in the game against the Coyotes, was not at morning practice and is day-to-day.
BURROWS SHINES AS NHL’S FIRST STAR
Even though Alex Burrows did not make NHL history last Saturday against the Calgary Flames by scoring three consecutive hat tricks, he is no doubt a giant asset to the Vancouver Canucks this season and has been named the National Hockey League’s first star of the week (January 4-10), followed by second star Jonas Hiller from the Anaheim Ducks, and third start Mathieu Garon from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Burr’s week has consisted of two consecutive hat tricks against Columbus on January 5 and against Phoenix on January 7. Burr made history as the third player to do this, and the only player to achieve back-to-back hattys since Ilya Kovalchuk in 2007.
“It’s great for him,” said line mate Henrik Sedin. “He scored two hat tricks and 7 goals in three games, so it’s a lot of fun for him. He’s earned it and he’s worked hard.”
Burrows has 35 points so far this season, with 17 goals and 18 assists. Just in the last five games alone he has accumulated nine points.
“It’s a nice honour,” said Burrows. “At the same time I think it’s just a reflection of how well the line mates have been playing and the teammates have been playing so we just have to keep it going.”
Hiller has been contributing well to the Ducks in net and has saved 125 shots out of 131 in the past week.
Blue Jackets goalie Garon shutout the Dallas Stars on Sunday night, saving all 26 shots and has a save percentage of .909.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Canucks will face the Nashville Predators for the third time this season tonight on home ice. The Canucks were defeated 4-2 the first time on December 8, but came back and were victorious in their previous match on December 22 and ended the game at 4-1.
With only one less point and one less win than the Canucks, the Predators are neck and neck with Vancouver for a future playoff position.
“Nashville’s going to be a big game tonight,” said Henrik Sedin. “They have a couple of good defencemen back there, same as Calgary, so we know it’s going to be a battle tonight. They’ve played extremely well this year even though they’ve had some tough injuries so it’s going to be a battle and they’re fighting with us for a playoff spot so it’s going to be fun.”
After a hard fought game against the Calgary Flames Saturday night that ended in shootout, the Canucks hope to better their 3-2 loss to the Flames and dominate the ice against Nashville.
“I think we need to play better as a team,” said Roberto Luongo. “It’s just one of those games that we need to put behind us and get ready for the next one; make sure we’re ready right off the hop, keep doing what we’ve been doing, and just forget about the last one.”