By Derek Jory
Fans see the current three-day break between games and they're woeful.
The same break causes the Vancouver Canucks to high-five, fist-bump and do a happy dance.
The team needs these days off more than ever right now as Ryan Kesler and Keith Ballard were added to the day-to-day injury report that is also home to Roberto Luongo.
Kesler, Ballard and Luongo were all absent from Canucks practice Thursday.
Kesler fell into the boards awkwardly during the second period of a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night at Rogers Arena; he remained hunched over in discomfort for a few moments before returning to the game and playing through the pain.
He was still in pain when he came in for practice today.
“He came in this morning with a little bit of stiffness there, so we decided to give him the day off to take care of his shoulder,” said coach Alain Vigneault.
When asked if there could be separation in the shoulder, Vigneault responded “No, not at this time,” adding “At this time, yes” when questioned if Kesler will be okay to play against the Ottawa Senators in Vancouver’s next game this Sunday.
Vigneault wasn’t as optimistic about Ballard, who left Wednesday’s game after just five shifts following a collision with Chicago’s Daniel Carcillo.
“He’s out indefinitely with those back issues,” said coach. “We’ll see how that turns around here in the next couple of days. He got hit during the game, his back tightened up, so we’ll see how that responds.”
There is good news on the horizon as although Luongo didn’t practice for the third straight day, he skated with goaltending coach Roland Melanson for 30 minutes earlier in the morning.
“He’s still day-to-day and we’ll see how he responds here in the next couple of days.”
Eddie Lack, who was recalled yesterday to backup Cory Schneider, was reassigned to the Chicago Wolves today, but Vigneault said it was simply a salary-cap move and that Lack will be back for Sunday if Luongo hasn’t made more progress.
The great news of the day comes in a Mason Raymond update that caught the media as off guard as it’ll catch you: Raymond has been cleared for contact.
“I think he’s coming along great,” said Vigneault. “We had him off-ice tested this morning, his test results were all real good, even the strength one for the upper body was better than what our guys anticipated.”
There’s still no target date for his return, but Raymond took a big step forward in being cleared for contact.
As for the actual practice itself, the Canucks were put through a variety of one-on-one battle drills before skating lines, hard, for roughly 15 minutes.
The bag skate was planned, not based on Wednesday’s performance.
“It was a work day, we worked on our skills at the beginning of practice, then we had some competitive drills one-on-one, which is 75 per cent of a hockey game, then we finished off working on a bit of our conditioning, so it was an overall good work day.”
The Canucks have Friday off before returning to practice Saturday in advance of Sunday’s game.