EHRHOFF WITH TWEAKED KNEE
Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff left last night's match against the Minnesota Wild with a tweaked knee. He twisted his knee during a third period penalty kill when battling for the puck with Wild forward Andrew Brunette.
"It's always disappointing and you are worried as a player, especially right before the playoffs, but hopefully it's just going to be a few days," said Ehrhoff.
He came down for treatment today and is headed to the doctor's tomorrow to find out the extent of the injury and timeline of his return.
"Obviously if you lose a guy like Hoffer it's going to sting, especially this time of year," said Shane O'Brien. "I saw him after the game last night and he looked like he was all right, so I think it's probably just something minor. He's a tough German, so I'm sure he'll be ready to go for the playoffs."
Ehrhoff has been a major part of the Canucks blue line this season with the many injuries the defensive line has faced. He finds a way to play his role as a defender while often joining the offence. He is the lead scorer for the Canucks blue line this season with 43 points (14-29-43).
"Look at his minutes and look at his points," said Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness. "He's a big part of our team, and we've emphasized since we've got here that we want the defence involved in the offence and joining the attack. Christian's about the best we have at doing that."
Both O'Brien and Nolan Baumgartner will get the chance to dress for one or more of the last three regular season games to ensure they are ready for the playoffs. Andrew Raycroft will play one of the final three games. If Ehrhoff is not cleared to play tomorrow, it will be O'Brien who will slide back into the lineup.
"I'm ready to go," said O'Brien. "Going through this thing, it's been a little gut check and you look in the mirror and you realize how fun it is to play and be around the boys. It's just going to be nice to get back in if I get the opportunity and if not, I will just continue to work hard and wait until I get my chance."
HEALTHY GROUP OF FORWARDS
Forward Steve Bernier, who has missed the last 17 games with a sports hernia, may be cleared to play tomorrow when the Canucks take on the Avalanche. With Bernier back, the Canucks finally have a healthy group of forwards.
With the possible return of Bernier, and the recent return of Mikael Samuelsson and Pavol Demitra, the Canucks forward lines may continue to shift as the playoffs approach.
The third and fourth liners experience the most line changes as the Canucks tend to cycle players like Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, and Rick Rypien in and out of the lineup.
"Anytime you go far into playoffs, there's definately a lot of injuries," said Hordichuk. "It's more about the guys who aren't playing that have to stay ready because at any game you could be in the lineup. It's the same thing every year where you think maybe you won't get a shot, next thing you know you're playing in every game. It's going to be important for us third and fourth liners to step up our game too."
THREE GAMES LEFT, CANT HELP BUT LOOK AHEAD
After a 4-3 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild Sunday, the Canucks clinched the Northwest division for the third time in the last four years. The Canucks are looking to the playoffs but want to use the final three regular season games to clear up a few areas.
"We want to make sure that every part of our game is where it needs to be and everybody is on the same page," said Luongo. "Come playoff time we don't have time to make adjustments and change things up. We have to go with what we've been doing all year as a team and what made us successful."
Even with the amount of penalties the Canucks have had this season (442), fifth most in the league, they are 81.0% on the penalty kill and have scored nine short-handed goals, second most in the league. However associate coach Rick Bowness doesn’t excuse the 16 penalties accumulated in their last two games.
"We don't blame the officials for the last 16 penalties we've taken," said Bowness. "That is all us and that is all within our control. That is one of the areas that we'll certainly have to address again."
If the playoffs started today, the Canucks would face the Detroit Red Wings (41-24-14) who are 7-1-2 in their last ten, and who defeated them 4-3 on March 20 in the last second of overtime. The Red Wings experienced what it’s like to fight for a playoff position this season and have managed to climb up to sixth place since the Olympic break.
"When they came in here a couple weeks ago, we had a little taste of how they were playing and I think we all knew that they weren't going to end up in eighth," said O'Brien. "If we end up playing against them, I'm sure we're going to have to go through them sooner or later so why not right away. The standings change day-to-day and who knows who we're going to play, it'll probably come down to the last day."
With the Nashville Predators (46-28-6), Red Wings (41-24-14), and Los Angeles Kings (44-27-7) separated by only three points, the Canucks’ first round opponent could be one of three.
"I think that any of the three teams that you play, they're going to have a combination of different things like goaltending and skill," said Hordichuk. "It's one of those things, it doesn't matter who we play. Eventually if we want to go all the way we're going to have to play them. Detroit's coming strong here but I think it's going to come down to the last game to see who we're playing so it's going to be exciting."