DEMITRA TO MISS WILD
Pavol Demitra will not play in Saturday night’s game against his former club, the Minnesota Wild. The winger sidelined with a groin injury, practiced with the team at UBC yesterday and again today, but is not quite game-ready.
The Dubnica, Slovakia native previously missed 10 games earlier this season with a fractured rib, before returning for the November 15th game against Toronto, tallying three assists before going on to collect 10 points in six games.
The Wild are in town tomorrow for the fourth match up against the Canucks so far this season. Both teams are tied with 51 points, although Minnesota has two games in hand. The Minnesota squad plays in Edmonton tonight before flying to Vancouver.
Energy forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for his first game since January 2nd in Atlanta. Mason Raymond
will likely join Shane O’Brien as a healthy scratch with d-man Rob Davison expected to play. Lawrence Nycholat is on IR with groin problems, along with Demitra, and Rick Rypien remains out of the lineup with a sports hernia injury.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Shane, but saying that we need him to play to his strengths,” said head coach Alain Vigneault when asked about the d-man switch.
“He was brought in as a good, physical defenceman that has the capabilities sometimes to defend himself and defend his teammates. By being a physical presence on the ice I think it buys him a little time to be able to move the puck well and make good decisions with the puck. Right now he’s not as physical as he can be and I think that’s hurting him with the puck because other teams can put pressure on him.”
Vigneault has made a few line adjustments heading into the Wild match up. Mats Sundin has been skating with Ryan Kesler
and Alex Burrows in practice. Vigneault feels that the Burrows and Kesler pairing is their strongest duo besides the Sedins and their consistent play and intensity will be complimented by Sundin's skill.
“It’s nice,” said Burrows of his new linemate. “Mats is an unbelievable player, hopefully we will be able to make it click and get a few goals. It’s really fun to play with a guy like that, that’s for sure.
“I don’t think [it will change our role]. Kes and I are still going to go out there and try to play hard against whoever we play against. Just play the same kind of way, get the puck deep and try to create some traffic in front and generate some offence. But at the same time you want to be really reliable defensively, play well in all three zones and still be in people’s faces.”
The top line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin
with Taylor Pyatt is expected to stay the same, as they have had success in recent games. Kyle Wellwood, originally expected to be a healthy scratch, will likely centre Steve Bernier and Jannik Hansen
, while combination of Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk, and Mike Brown fills out the offensive lines.STICKING TOGETHER
The Canucks have lost seven straight games and yesterday their frustration was obvious. However, despite their current slump the team remains positive and determined to show fans that this group has what it takes; something they believe wholeheartedly.
“It’s a confidence thing,” said Sundin. “I don’t care what team you are in this league, Detroit, San Jose, every team goes through spurts. Detroit last year went 10 games or something without winning and they ended up winning the Stanley Cup. It’s how you come out of funks like this that makes a difference.
“All the ingredients to be a great team are here. We have one of the best goaltenders in the league, we have a big, strong defence, we have guys up front that can score goals and put the puck in the net. But it has to come together, and good teams find a way when they’re in funks like this to grow stronger and become a better team out of it and realize what it takes to be a good team. That’s what we have to do.
“Obviously there’s no time to waste. We look at the standings and see how close it is. But there is no doubt in my mind that this is a good enough team to be a playoff team and be a good team in the playoffs. But we have to make sure we get there.”
Throughout the downturn many people have pointed to Vigneault as the problem. The players are quick to defend him, explaining they have a good system, the same game plan that they had success with in November, they just have to play within it.
“When you’re thinking too much out there it kind of hurts you a little bit," said Roberto Luongo
. "You’ve just got to go out there, everyone knows what their job, what their role is, we’ve just got to work within our system. And when times are not going that well, you just go back to the basics and build from there on out.”
There is a lot of communication between teammates and the coaches, and everyone is focused on simplifying their game heading into Saturday’s match up against division rivals the Wild.
“We talk, obviously we are a tight group," said Demitra. "We’ve got meetings, but when you’re losing and things aren’t going your way it’s frustrating. We’re losing, but we’ve got a great team here, we have to put a couple of wins together here and we’ll be fine.”
The players know they need to get back to basics and play with intensity and discipline to beat Minnesota.
“We’re not tweaking very many things,” said Vigneault. “What we’re doing is emphasizing our strengths and making sure our players go on the ice and execute. It’s about execution. When we’re a good team we’re executing, we’re passing crisp, we’re being physical on the ice, we’re skating well, and when we move the puck well we look real quick. Those are all things we’ve done in the past that we can do tomorrow, and that’s what we’re going to do.”