The Vancouver Canucks (35-10-9) host the Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4) for the fourth and final time this season at Rogers Arena tonight. In their last meeting, the Canucks overcame a two goal deficit with seven minutes, eventually winning on a shootout snipe by Jeff Tambellini.
Games between the Ducks and Canucks have been feisty and high scoring of late. In seven meetings over the last two years the Ducks and Canucks have scored 25 times apiece, for an average of 3.5 goals a game each.
“They play a chippy game, a lot of hitting, a lot of battles out there, it makes for fun games, we love playing these guys,” said Henrik Sedin.
Hoping to dress a grittier lineup tonight against the Ducks, Coach Vigneault will play Aaron Volpatti on the fourth line wing in place of Jeff Tambellini.
“At the end of the day, they play to their strengths and part of their strengths is they’ve got guys in there that play with grit they don’t turn away, they come straight at you and that’s why most of the games are good battles and hard fought games,” said Coach Alain Vigneault.
Volpatti knows what Coach Vigneault expects of him.
“We saw last game with the Neil incident that we have to get out there and do the same thing to the other teams skilled forwards as well,” said Volpatti. “So I am just going to get out there and play my game and be physical”.
It’s a battle of the backups tonight, as Cory Schneider (9-2-2) will go up against Curtis Mcelhinney (4-5-1). Schneider is coming off a 3rd star performance in a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars last Tuesday, while Mcelhinney shutout the Colorado Avalanche in his last outing on Saturday.
“I haven’t played them in the regular season yet, but a lot of teams are like that for me, it’s just another challenge and I think the way we’ve been playing hopefully we can limit their chances and make the night easy,” said Schneider.
Roberto Luongo, will serve as back up tonight, after recovering from a short bout with the flu, while Anaheim first stringer Jonas Hiller will sit out his second straight game with ‘light headedness’.
The only other change sees Chris Tanev return to the lineup after sitting out last game as a healthy scratch. He will play on the left side with new defense partner Andrew Alberts. Tanev will, as usual, keep it simple.
“Should be the same, just play good defense, and try to move the puck up to our guys on the rush,” said Tanev.
The Canucks are averaging 4.8 goals a game on their current six game winning streak, having only scored less than four goals once.
The Ducks will dress perennial all-star forward Ryan Getzlaf for the first time since he suffered a nasal fracture 14 games ago against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, newly acquired Francois Beauchemin will not make it to Vancouver in time for the game. The 30 year old defenseman begins his 2nd tour of duty with the team after being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this afternoon.
Anahiem sits in 7th place in the Western Conference, 17 points back of the first place Canucks.
Good news for the ailing Canucks defense corps as the MRI results came back negative for defenseman Keith Ballard. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained MCL.
“The MRI showed a mild sprain and were looking at around four weeks, so considering what we saw when you look at the replay, it could have been a lot worse, so we’re pretty pleased about that,” said Coach Vigneault.
Kevin Bieksa was equally happy about the news.
“He’s a strong guy, a durable guy and he was lucky to escape with minimal damage, it’ll be nice to have him back in a few weeks or so,” said Kevin Bieksa.
Ballard has two goals and three assists in 45 games with the Canucks this year.
Sami Salo is flying back to Vancouver this afternoon after a successful three game conditioning stint with the Manitoba Moose.
It’s still unknown whether he will dress for Saturday night’s matchup against the streaking Calgary Flames.
“I haven’t talked to him yet, I talked to Lorne Henning briefly last night and he said he was getting better, but I can’t tell you how he felt after those three games,” said Vigneault.
In three games with the Moose he had 2 goals, including a game winner against the Wilkes Barrie/Scranton Penguins last Friday night.