It appears as if go time is Saturday as the Canucks expect every forward and defenceman available to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Alex Burrows was the only skater absent from practice Friday as Kevin Bieksa, Brad Richardson and Chris Higgins all took part; Burrows took a maintenance day and is expect to face the Maple Leafs, while Bieksa, Richardson and Higgins all declared themselves fit to play.
“Tomorrow should be a fun day for the group,” smiled Higgins, who missed the last three games with a lower-body strain suffered in practice.
Bieksa, who has missed 21 games after undergoing hand surgery, said he feels good and the time is right for his return – sitting on the sidelines was torture for this competitive defenceman.
“It’s the time of year where points are so crucial right now because the standings are so tight,” said Bieksa. “When you’re out, you get the chance to watch a few more games and see some teams and it doesn’t seem like Calgary is going to lose too many games and LA is obviously going to be a top team down the stretch, so we’ve got to get as many points as we can.”
Bieksa was paired with Luca Sbisa at practice, while Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson and Derek Dorsett made up a trio. LOOKING AHEAD
Back to the drawing board.
In arguably their biggest game of the year, the Canucks came out flat and were shutout by the Los Angeles Kings 4-0 Thursday night at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks were outshot, outhit and generally outplayed by the Kings, who sealed the game with a goal 25 seconds into the 3rd period to take a 3-0 lead. This was the third of five meetings between the two and although Vancouver has lost the season series, Los Angeles is a potential playoff match-up this year so solving the Kings remains a priority.
First things first.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in town Saturday for a 4 p.m. matinee game; it’s the third of five games for the Canucks on their current home stand and with points at a premium, another letdown would be a punch to the gut.
“I can stand here and say a few different things, but it’s about us going out there and being ready,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “We’ve got to be ready from the start, for the first five minutes we have to go out and show that we’re not going to let this one slip away and not give Toronto any life.”
Although the Canucks have played down to their opposition of late, Henrik said the emotions in Rogers Arena Saturday should help prevent that from happening.
“I think it’s good they’re a Canadian team, there’s going to be a lot of emotions from the fans and I think that’s going to help us.”
Excluding the LA game, Vancouver has been shutout four times this season and has rebounded to win their next game on three occasions.
As for the Leafs, Toronto plays in Calgary Friday night in the frontend of their 15th set of back-to-back games; Toronto is 7-6-1 in the second of consecutive games this year. MARKSTROM DOWN
Jacob Markstrom was noticeably absent from practice Friday, replaced with team assistant athletic trainer Dave Zarn opposite Eddie Lack.
Coach revealed post-practice Markstrom has been reassigned to Utica, while Joacim Eriksson has been recalled. The move should see Markstrom get two starts for the Comets, who play in Chicago Saturday and in Iowa Sunday.
Eriksson is set to arrive in Vancouver anytime and will back-up Lack Saturday.