RYPIEN OVER THE FLU
Canucks forward Rick Rypien is back in the line-up and flu free after missing the last three games. He skated alongside Ryan Johnson and Tanner glass at this morning’s practice replacing Darcy Hordichuk, who will sit out tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Willie Mitchell did suffer a concussion against the Penguins January 16th and is still day-to-day. He’s missed three games and it’s still unknown whether he will join the team for the first half of the marathon road trip that kicks off Saturday in Toronto.
“I think we can safely say that Willie has a concussion,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “Right now he’s getting close to symptom free. So he’s day-to-day.”
Sami Salo is also day-to-day after suffering a groin injury in the match last Thursday against the Dallas Stars.
With Salo and Mitchell both still on the sidelines, the patchwork defensive unit that humbled the high-flying Blackhawks will dress again against Buffalo.
BC HOCKEY HALL OF FAME’S 2010 INDUCTEES
After today’s morning skates, the BC Hockey Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 2010, including former Canuck Captain Trevor Linden, BC native and former Detroit Redwing Dallas Drake, President, General Manager, and Governor of the WHL Kelowna Rockets, Bruce Hamilton, and Frank Lento, former President of Hockey BC.
Linden’s 19 seasons in the NHL - and 16 with the Canucks - will never be forgotten. He played on four NHL teams (Vancouver, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, and Washington Capitals). Linden amassed 375 goals and 492 assists in 1,382 career games, not to mention becoming Canuck Captain at just 21 years old. The Medicine Hat, Alberta, native represented Canada on four different occasions including the Olympics in 1998.
Dallas Drake played in the NHL for 1009 games and for four different teams (Detroit Redwings, St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes, and the Winnipeg Jets). Before retiring in 2008, Drake recorded 177 goals and 300 assists. He won the Stanley Cup with the Redwings in the 2007-2008 season.
Bruce Hamilton spent many years with the Kelowna Rockets as President, General Manager, and Governor. He led Kelowna to the Memorial Cup tournaments four times, one of which was the first win in franchise history in 2003-2004.
Frank Lento has been a President of Hockey BC, Chair of Hockey Canada, and a member of the Selection Committee for the 1988 World Junior Association. In addition to his passion for hockey, he has been a teacher/administrator for 41 years. Frank has been Director, President, and Member of the Parent Committee of the Western Womens League. He also has been Hockey Chair of thr 2010 Olympic Bid Committee.
The Inductees will be recognized at the 2010 BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Banquet on July 23 taking place in Penticton, BC.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Canucks will face Buffalo for the first and only time this season as they host the Sabres on GM Place ice. It’s the second-last game at home before they embark on an epic their 14 game road trip that bookends the Olympic break.
The teams last met October 17, 2008 when Buffalo handed Vancouver a 5-2 defeat.
The Sabres currently sit in third place in the East with 67 points, (30-13-7). Even with a strong effort last Saturday against the San Jose Sharks, the Sabres came up short losing 5-2.
The Canucks have been hot of late winning their last four straight, including an inspiring 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday while missing three of their top defenders. The Canucks sit in fourth spot in the West and second in the Northwest Division with 64 points (31-18-2), just two points shy of the Colorado Avalanche.
“We played some good hockey this year and we’re coming together now with Demitra coming back,” said Daniel Sedin. “I think if you look at our lineup, it’s a pretty strong lineup, so we’re confident.”
The Canucks know they’ll have a much taller mountain to climb tonight as they face Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, who leads the league in save percentage at .934. Miller also has five shutouts this season.
Miller will be one of the goaltenders for Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics, along with Canuck forward Ryan Kesler, who knows just how effective Miller can play between the pipes.
“Good goaltender,” said Kesler. “We have to obviously be aware of him. He can zip the puck really well, so we have to have good dumps, and capitalize on all our scoring chances.”
Without defencemen Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell, the Canucks will need to maintain pressure in the Buffalo end to take some of the focus off the defensive unit which includes recently recalled Nolan Baumgartner, Brad Lukowich and Aaron Rome – who will all likely see increased minutes.
”We’re going to try to make sure that we play well through that neutral zone and cut down on their chances,” said Alex Burrows. “At the same time, we’re playing one of the best goalies in the league so we have to get the long shots and get some traffic again, and get some second opportunities with tips and rebounds.”
Even though the Sabres have lost their last three, they did mount a six game winning streak from December 27 to January 8.
“They don’t give up a lot of goals,” said Vigneault. “They have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and from what I saw in their puck possession game, and their pressure game, how much pressure they put against San Jose and LA, they have a really good team. They’re one of the best teams out East and it’s going to be a really tough game for us tonight.”