Canuck forward Pavol Demitra will rejoin the team in Columbus so he will not play against the Florida Panthers today.
Demitra flew to Vancouver on Monday to be with his wife who was ill, and missed Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He will likely be back on the ice for Friday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The lineup from Tuesday’s game will stay intact, meaning forward Ryan Johnson and defenceman Nolan Baumgartner are the healthy scratches for today’s match.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Canucks will face the Florida Panthers today for the first and only time this season, and hope to better the 3-1 loss suffered Tuesday in Tampa Bay. It will be game six in the epic 18 day trip.
Last season the Canucks defeated the Panthers 5-3 after falling behind two goals within the first seven minutes. Pavol Demitra had a pair, while Darcy Hordichuk, Kyle Wellwood, and Ryan Kesler chipped in with singles to complete the impressive comeback.
The Panthers (24-26-9) currently hold fourth spot in the Southeast division and 12th in the Eastern conference. They have lost their last four games, including a 4-1 defeat in a divisional battle against the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday (the Canes sit just six points behind the Panthers).
The Panthers have battled injuries all year - the most recent being Nathan Horton who suffered a fractured tibia on January 21st against the New York Islanders. He will be out for four to six weeks. Before his injury, he was the leading scorer on his team with 46 points in 51 games (17-29-46), and is still second on his team even after missing eight games.
Roberto Luongo not only faces his former team (he played five seasons in Florida), but also Panther goaltender Tomas Vokoun (19-20-9), who is tied for first in the NHL for save percentage. Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins also sit at .931. Vokoun is also first in shutouts with 7, tied with Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
Vokoun will dress for the Czech Republic in the upcoming Olympics along with defenceman Dennis Seidenberg who will skate with Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff on Team Germany.
The Canucks (35-21-2) were bumped down to second in the Northwest division and sixth in the Western conference after Colorado’s 4-3 overtime win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday. With the Avs only two points ahead, a win for the Canucks today is crucial.
THREE GAMES LEFT, CAN’T HELP BUT LOOK AHEAD
The 2010 Winter Olympic opening ceremony begins this Friday in Vancouver, however the seven Canuck Olympians won’t be there to see it. With three road games left until Sunday February 14, they will have to wait.
Brad Ziemer from the Vancouver Sun reported today some of the players thoughts about missing the beginning of the Olympics.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Roberto Luongo told Ziemer. “Especially the opening ceremonies, not even being at home for them and we have a game so we won’t even get a chance to see them. That’s a bit disappointing. But hey, what are you doing to do? It’s part of the business and I’m sure there will be tons of replays of it after.”
The Canuck Olympians – Luongo (Canada), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Sweden), Sami Salo (Finland), Ryan Kesler (USA), Pavol Demitra (Slovakia), and Christian Ehrhoff (Germany), have been sporting their Olympic gear in practice in preparation in their fight for the gold.
For all NHL Olympians the games will be special, but even more special for the Canuck Olympians who will play on their home ice and for their home country.
In the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, Sweden took the gold. Ornskoldsvik, Sweden natives Daniel and Henrik Sedin are even more excited to try for the gold again because it’s in their home rink.
“If we win in Canada it is going to be way better,” Henrik told Ziemer. “Torino, it was the Olympics, but it was never really sold out in the arenas and the interest in Torino wasn’t as big and I think in Canada the focus is going to be on hockey. It will be like two different Olympics. It is going to top it for sure if we can go all the way.”
Salo’s three children, one of which plays minor hockey in Vancouver will be there cheering him on in his third time competing in the games.
“This is really special, for sure,” Salo told Ziemer. “My son has been talking about it for the whole year. He’s so excited about it.”
German native Ehrhoff who will also be competing for the third time in the Olympics agrees with Henrik that Vancouver is definitely the better place in terms of hockey rather than Torino.
“In Torino, you really didn’t have the feeling that the people were really excited about it,” Ehroff said to Ziemer. “Here’s on example, we were getting in a cab downtown and we told the cab driver, Olympic Village, and he had no idea. That was really odd.”
Ryan Kesler is looking forward to representing team USA, especially since they came out on top in the World Junior Championships this year, but will try to keep his focus on the Canucks’ last three games of their road trip.
“It’s something I am really looking forward to, but I am trying not to think about it too much” he told Ziemer. “We’ve still got there games left to play.”
The first matches in the Men’s Preliminary Round begin on February 16, when Team USA faces team Sweden, Team Canada plays Norway, and Team Russia faces Latvia.