Canucks forward Pavol Demitra was skating on his own this morning with Shane O'Brien before the team practice. He has missed three games so far to tend to his wife who was in and out of the hospital, but will rejoin the team soon.
"It was very tough and very hard on my family," said Demitra. "My wife had problems before the Olympics, and everybody was hoping everything would be fine after the Olympics but those problems came back. Finally we got the results and I think she will need a little longer to recover, but everything's fine. I'm glad to be back to start working out and hopefully get into shape soon and get back to playing."
Demitra will not travel with the team but hopes to start practicing with them when they return from their two game road trip.
"He works extremely hard and is a presence in the locker room," said Alex Burrows. "He's a big part of our team and we're looking forward to having him back."
Canucks forward Steve Bernier also returned today and skated with the team for the first time since undergoing surgery for a sport's hernia.
"I feel great right now," said Bernier. "I started skating five or six days ago. Everyday I'm improving so it's good to have a smile on my face again and be with the guys."
Bernier has missed 14 games since his surgery and is hoping to be back for the playoffs, or maybe even a little sooner. He will travel with the team to Los Angeles and take the morning skates.
"With a surgery like this you don't want to take any chances," said Bernier. I missed a month, and I want to make sure I'm going to be one hundred percent to help this team win in the playoffs. I'm going to take my time but as soon as I'm one hundred percent I'm going to come back."
Mikael Samuelsson is close to being ready after suffering an upper body injury. He will continue to practice with the team. He is travelling with the them on their two game road trip but will not dress for the games.
Daniel Sedin took a maintenance day and did not attend practice but will travel with the team to Los Angeles.
CHANCE TO CLINCH
Odds are better that Alain Vigneault and Shane O’Brien go for a tandem bike ride around the seawall than the Canucks missing the playoffs. That being said, Vancouver is still not officially in.
If the Canucks, who sit first in the Northwest Division and third in the Western Conference with a record of 46-26-4, get some help from the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, they clinch.
Easier said than done for the Coyotes as they’ll face a Calgary Flames team starving for points.
The Flames sit ninth in the West and third in the Northwest with 85 points (38-29-9), four behind the eighth place Colorado Avalanche (41-27-7), and only two ahead of the St. Louis Blues (37-30-9).
The Flames have suffered two losses to the Coyotes this season, and another loss for the Flames would be a gain for the Canucks.
Though the Canucks faced numerous injuries this year, they are only four points shy of their 100 points (45-27-10) last season and only ten short of beating their 105 points in 2006-2007 and setting a new franchise record for most in a season.
The Canucks are only three points behind the Chicago Blackhawks (46-22-7) and with six games left, there’s enough wiggle room that they don’t have to settle for third.
The Canucks play two consecutive road games starting Thursday with the Los Angeles Kings, who’ve they beaten three times this season. Though the Canucks have struggled on the road this year with an 18-18-2 record, they feel more confident having won eight on their epic 14 game road trip.
"We want to make sure that we're being as good of a team as we can come playoff time," said Roberto Luongo. "These last few road games are going to be important for us. Even though our record isn't great on the road, I think we still have the confidence that we can go into any building, play well, and win some games."