The Canucks (47-17-9) begin their final road trip of the season tonight in Detroit (43-21-9) as they visit the 2nd place Red Wings.
With a 4-17-3 record in their last 25 games, Vancouver hasn’t fared well to well in Detroit over the last decade, but they are 1-0-2 against the Red Wings this season, including a 5-4 overtime loss at Joe Louis arena in December.
The Canucks sit eight points up on the Red Wings in the Western Conference with nine games left in the season. A regulation win tonight would put the Canucks 10 points up on the Wings with eight games to go; all but guaranteeing the team first spot overall in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got nine games left and this is probably our biggest challenge, so we’re getting ready for it,” said Kevin Bieksa.
The Red Wings will be without four of their top forwards for tonight’s game as Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Jiri Hudler, Johan Franzen are all day-to-day with minor ailments. The four forwards have combined for 71 of Detroit’s 237 goals this season.
“It seems like they always have some injuries when we play against them, but they’re probably one of the best teams in the league for having guys come up and play well,” said Bieksa.
“They’ve still got the best defenseman in the league and a couple other guys, so we’re not going to take them lightly.”
The Canucks have health concerns of their own, as forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Tanner Glass will sit out tonight’s game with upper body injuries.
“If it was playoffs Mikael could probably play tonight, but were going to take a couple of days to make sure that this heals properly,” said Coach Vigneault.
With the absence of Samuelsson, Mason Raymond moves up from 4th line centre to play right wing on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins.
“That line most of the year has been Mason, Ryan and Mikael Samuelsson,” said Coach Vigneault. “This is going to give us an opportunity to try Higgins there and Mason back up with Kesler and see what those guys can do against a real good opponent tonight.”
Finally some good news on the injury front as defenseman Kevin Bieksa is back after missing 15 games with a foot fracture.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s a good challenge tonight, coming back against a good team,” said Kevin Bieksa.
Bieksa has 19 points in 57 games this season (6-13-19) and boasts the NHL’s 7th best plus/minus rating at plus 26.
Chris Tanev is the odd man out, but he’ll stay with the team as its 7th defenseman for the time being.
DANIEL BACK WITH TEAM
Daniel Sedin joined the team yesterday evening after the birth of his third child, and will play tonight against the Red Wings.
“Obviously it was important for him to be there for the birth of his daughter, which is the right thing to do,” said Coach Vigneault. “That being said, for him not to miss a game, I am sure that he’s happy and his brother is happy now too.”
Every game counts if the Sedins are going to make history and become the first twins to win the scoring title.
Daniel currently holds a seven point lead on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos in the Art Ross standings.
“I’m sure they’re more interested in the two points, but deep down they’re thinking about this thing that’s never happened before.”
Daniel has registered points in eight straight games (6-8-14).