After 47 regular season games and countless rehab hours, Pavol Demitra makes his return to the lineup and dresses for his first game of the 2009-10 season.
"It was a long eight months and obviously I'm very excited and a little bit nervous - it's been a long time since I've played a game so I'll just see how it goes," said Demitra following the morning skate Saturday.
Demitra skated alone for 15 minutes prior to the Canucks optional skate that saw just 12 players take the ice.
In his first season with the Canucks since signing with the team as a free agent in the summer of 2008, Demitra 53 points (20-33-53) in 69 games in 2008-09. He was the Canucks fourth leading scorer and tied for third for assists on the team behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Demitra has played just two full NHL seasons since joining the NHL but hasn't failed to put up point and help his team along the way.
"Pavol is one of the most skilled players on the team so obviously we want him to play to his strengths but since he hasn't had a training camp and the luxury of a lot of practices with the team, you'd hope that he keep it real simple and high percentage, especially against such a strong opponent," said Coach Alain Vigneaul of Demitra's return to tonight. "He's a veteran player, he's been around a long time, and it's not the first time he's come back from an injury so I'm sure he'll be fine."
Demitra will make his return a memorable one regardless of the outcome with a rare visit from the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 14 career games against the Pens, Demitra has seven goals and seven assists (7-7-14). He had two goals, finished a plus-3, and was named the game's first star against the Pens last year.
"I think it should be a very exciting game and a lot of people in town getting excited about this game," he said. "It's a huge game for us because we've lost a couple of games in a row, we want to come back and win one at home."
A GOALIE SITUATION
While the Canucks get a welcome addition to the lineup, the Penguins see the loss of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury played half the game against Edmonton Thursday night with a fractured left ring finger and didn't practice with the team Friday or Saturday morning and won't be in net tonight.
Instead, the Pens will welcome a new face as John Curry, who was recalled from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL on January 11th. Curry is not entirely new to the NHL - he played three games with the Penguins last season and posted a 2-1-0 record.
"It turns out I'm starting," he said. "I was preparing last night and this morning and got the same usual pre-game skate that I usually do so I feel ready to go."
Curry is 16-13-1 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season with a .904 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average. Curry was signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh on July 1, 2007.
As a result, the Penguins signed goalie, Alexander Pechurski to a one-game amateur try out contract this morning. Pechurski is currently playing with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL and is a 2008 Pittsburgh draft pick.
He is 4-1-1 this season with a 1.84 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
Steve Bernier is still day-to-day with a groin injury and didn't participate in the Canucks optional skate today.
He has missed the last two games and has 18 points (10-8-18) in 43 games this year so far.
The Penguins make their last stop of their Northwest road trip in Vancouver. They are 2-1-0 on the West Coast swing and have won the last two in Calgary and Edmonton.
The Canucks are 35-56-12 against the Pens all-time and are 23-23-5 on home ice. In the teams' last meeting, the Canucks won 3-1 in Pittsburgh but lost in a shootout the last time they met in Vancouver with Kris Letang getting the game winner.
The Canucks have lost three straight for the first time since November 6-12 and look to get back on track against the Pens before a three-day break.