DEMITRA TO MISS WEDNESDAY GAME
The Canucks were out in full force, skating for an hour this morning, their second practice since returning from the All-Star break. The only absence was Pavol Demitra, who will not be ready for tomorrow’s game as originally hoped.
Demitra spent his All-Star break resting after tweaking his groin during the 6-5 SO loss to Columbus. The veteran winger skated on his own before practice yesterday and again today, but is still a least a few days from returning to the lineup.
“He did skate for another half an hour,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “He’s not quite there yet, so we’ll see, there’s a chance maybe for Saturday.
“With groins you never know, some guys come back quicker than others. It’s an important area for a player or a goaltender. In Pav’s case we didn’t think it was that severe, but it’s been a little over a week now, so it’s usually in that time frame, a week to two.”
When Demitra is ready to rejoin the group, the Canucks will be faced with some decisions, as they will have 24 healthy players, one more than allowed. Until then however, all the focus is on turning their game around and gaining valuable points and ground in the tight Western Conference.RESTED AND REJUVENATED
The Canucks have 34 games left to play and are sitting in seventh position in the tight Western Conference. The team has faced a great deal of adversity this season and look to get their game back on track. Steps in the right direction were evident as they entered the All-Star break with a narrow 2-1 OT loss to the League leading San Jose Sharks.
“I think in our case what we’re trying to do is look at it in a realistic approach,” said Vigneault. “Realistically when the season started a lot of people put us out of the playoffs. One person put us 29th in the NHL and a lot of people thought we’d battle for one of the playoff spots. Well we’re at All-Star break, just past, we’re right in the playoff hunt, and we haven’t had our best player for half the time.
“I’d rather look at it as a glass half full. I think we’re in pretty good shape. We’ve got most of our guys back, Mats has been here for over a couple of weeks and he’s been getting better. And the big guy in goal is finding his groove. He was able to go to the All-Star game and get some practice time, get 25 minutes in. He’s optimistic, and for me whenever the big guy in goal feels pretty good, I start to smile a little bit. So I’m smiling now.”
The players are aware of the tight conference standings, but are focusing on one game at a time rather than the larger picture. The task at hand is Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators, a team they've played well against this season, establishing a 3-0-0 record.
“I think obviously with every game when we get closer to the end of the year it becomes more and more intense, more and more important,” said Roberto Luongo
. “We’ve got a big one tomorrow night and we want to start of the second half of the season on the right note.
“Everyone is re-energized, recharged and ready to go. There’s a good energy around the team and good vibes. We’re anxious to get going tomorrow.”
“We all know how important the remaining games are going to be,” said Mats Sundin. “It’s going to be a dog race right down the stretch. I think everyone in the dressing room realizes the urgency of the situation we’re in as a team.”
Sundin spent his break working out everyday, although he waited until Monday to work on ice, wanting to participate in high-energy team practices.
“For me personally, practicing with the team, the up-tempo practice, skating, shooting, and all that is what’s important," said Sundin. "I worked out everyday throughout the whole break, so it wouldn’t change physically. [Replicating the intensity of a team practice on your own] would be impossible.”
The powerful centre's potential to add scoring depth and be a difference maker for the Canucks were attractive features when GM Mike Gillis signed the free agent in December. Sundin has improved every game and Vigneault believes it won’t be long before he is contributing the way he wants to.
"Obviously, this was a challenging moment in his career coming in midway, but he's been getting better every day," said Vigneault. "I thought [Monday] when he stepped on the ice, that's the best he's looked, skating-wise, hands-wise and he is a key to our success.
“We need him to play well and I think he’s going to rise to the occasion.”
Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail
suggests that as the playoff push intensifies the Canucks will re-focus on a defence first game plan"
"The most immediate pressure will be on the Vancouver Canucks, who signaled their intention to trap, trap, trap in the last game before the all-star break, against the San Jose Sharks. They didn't win, but they did limit the high-scoring Sharks to a manageable few scoring chances.
"If Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault is legitimately in hot water, you have the sense he's not going down without a fight — or a shift toward playing the style he feels most comfortable with.
"Even if the Canucks would like to eventually be an up-tempo, high-scoring squad, the realization is sinking in: playing a defence-first style may be the way to go for this group, for this season anyway."GRABNER JOINS AUSTRIA IN OLYMPIC QUALIFIER
Canucks' prospect and Manitoba Moose winger Michael Grabner will join the Austrian National Men’s Hockey Team at the Olympic Qualifying tournament for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Grabner, 21, will be playing for Austria in Group F of the third stage of the Olympic Qualifying tournament played in Hanover, Germany from Feb. 5-8, 2009. Austria will be competing in a pool which includes Germany, Slovenia and Japan.
The winner of the tournament advances to the Olympic Games in Vancouver which will be held Feb. 12-28, 2010. Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States have already qualified for the Olympic tournament. Three other teams will qualify for spots to be determined.
Grabner a native of Villach, Austria was drafted by the Canucks 14th overall in 2006 and has played in 38 games with the Moose this season. He leads the team with 19 goals and is second in scoring with 28 points (19-9-28). He has also collected 12 PIMs.CANUCKS SUPERSKILLS:
Canucks skills are put on display Sunday, February 1st at the annual Superskills
event. Can't make it to GM Place? No worries, watch the whole thing live on Canucks.com beginning at 1:00pm. Tickets
are still available to the event.