The Canucks visit the Avalanche in Colorado tonight, finishing off their five game, whirlwind tour of the U.S.. Vancouver has two wins and two losses thus far on their longest road trip of the season.
The Canucks have dominated the Avalanche of late, going 4-0-0 this season and 8-0-1 in their last nine.
After being shut out in two of the last three games, coach Alain Vigneault offers up some new line combinations tonight in an effort to increase secondary scoring.
The first line stays intact with the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, while Mikael Samuelsson moves up to play with Ryan Kesler and newcomer, Sergei Shirokov on the 2nd line.
Jannik Hansen moves back to the 3rd line wing to play with Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra, and Mason Raymond drops down to the 4th line along with Jeff Tambellini. Coach Vigneault has yet to decide between Tanner Glass and Aaron Volpatti for the 12th forward.
“We’ve got guys who, even though I don’t question their effort, the process is good, we’re still struggling to get results on the score sheet,” Said Vigneault.
On defense, Chris Tanev will make his NHL debut on the 3rd pairing with Keith Ballard.
“I’m really excited, it’s a dream come true,” said Tanev. “I just have to play my game, move the puck and keep it simple.”
Roberto Luongo gets the start in net for the Canucks after sitting out last Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Wild. Luongo is 3-0 against the Avalanche this season with a 2.01 GAA and a .937 save percentage.
Coach Vigneault gave the players the day off yesterday, hoping to keep them well rested heading into tonight’s matchup.
The Canucks head back to Vancouver after tonight's game to begin a four game home stand against Kyle Wellwood and the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
HIGH PRAISE FOR SHIROKOV
Sergei Shirokov makes his season debut for the Canucks tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
After four years with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, Shirokov signed with the Canucks in the summer of 2009. Following an explosive preseason that saw him lead the Canucks in scoring, Shirokov fizzled out, going pointless in his first six regular season games. He was sent down to Manitoba and told to improve his consistency and defensive play.
“It’s so different from playing in Europe, this year I understand stuff,” said Shirokov. “I work all the time on my play, in the defensive zone, I watch tape. Coach tells me what I need to do better and how I need to play.”
Shirokov is making huge strides. He leads the Moose in scoring this season with 16 goals and 33 points and a +10 rating in 39 games. Last week he was named to the AHL all-star game.
“Sergei has really picked up his game this year, working hard in both ends of the ice,” said Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning. “He’s been the best forward by far down there”.
15 months later and the crafty Russian dangler is ready for his next opportunity.
“I know what I need to do on the ice. I feel good and I’m ready to go, I am very excited to play with such good linemates tonight.”
Shirokov will suit up on the second line tonight with Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson.
“We see him as a skill player, an offensive player to fill an offensive role for us,” said Canucks assistant Newell Brown. “He has a great attitude and is skating real well and producing, so we are looking forward to seeing him play”.
The early prognosis is a slight shoulder separation for Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts that could see him miss 2-3 weeks. It’s unclear at this point how bad the damage is; further tests will be performed when the team arrives back in Vancouver after Tuesday night’s game in Colorado.