RJ READY TO GO
After being out for 11 games with a broken foot, Canucks centre Ryan Johnson is ready to go and likely to play in game three against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at General Motors Place.
He has been skating with the team for the last few practices and is back to where he was before suffering the injury.
"I feel good," said Johnson. "We've had some good skates here, and I'm more than ready to go."
RJ appeared in 10 playoff games with Vancouver last season registering two points (1-1-2). The Canucks are happy to have him back, especially for his role in the dressing room and for what he brings to the penalty kill.
"He provides a lot of leadership in the dressing room, on and off the ice," said Kevin Bieksa. "He's a great team guy, a favourite of ours. He's definitely a guy who's going to sacrifice everything he has to block a shot and win a game and we're really happy to have him back."
Johnson was seen skating alongside Darcy Hordichuk and Rick Rypien, but head coach Alain Vigneault did not confirm that those three would make up the fourth line for tonight's game. However if Johnson does dress tonight, it would likely be for Michael Grabner.
"We need a physical presence, but a smart physical presence," said Johnson. "Our line's going to have to be a momentum line, and create a lot of energy for the team and the lines to follow."
If Hordichuk, who has not yet appeared in a playoff game this post-season, did come into the lineup tonight, he would bring some of that physical presence.
"I don't know if I'm playing for sure, but obviously I know what I'm going to have to do," said Hordichuk. "It's going to be punishing their D mean. [Duncan] Keith and [Brent] Seabrook play a lot of minutes, so I'll be finishing everything if I'm out there."
All other forward and defensive lines will likely remain the same as it was in game two against Chicago. Aaron Rome is still day-to-day with his injury and Nolan Baumgartner has not yet started skating with the team.
The Canucks face a much more physical team this round against the Blackhawks. After two games this series, the Canucks have been outhit 75-58, and consequently outshot 71-54. They hope to bring up the physicality in game three.
"I didn’t think LA was that physical," said Hordichuk. "And you look at the adjustments Chicago made by adding [Ben] Eager and [Adam] Burish in the lineup and I think those guys are going to bring the dimension they did last year. I think we can counter balance that and quiet those guys down."
For the Canucks, balancing physicality and trips to the penalty box is key against the Blackhawks who were very physical in game two, including disturbing tactics in front of Roberto Luongo with no interference. The Canucks will want to match the level of intensity and physicality while limiting the Hawks chances in front.
"I think we've done a good job of playing smart and within the rules," said Shane O'Brien. "At the same time we have to make it a little tougher for them to get to the net and make it tougher for them to get to those dirty areas of the ice."
"We have to get to the net more, that's no secret," said Bieksa. "We need to put more pucks on net, and the only way to do that is if you have more of a net presence."
With Chicago forward Dustin Byfuglien likely moving to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Canucks can expect him to be a continued presence in front of the Canucks net.
"He's tough, once he gets position on you, there's not a whole lot you can do," said Shane O'Brien. "I think he's around 265 pounds or something like that so when he gets his positioning you just have to try and get his stick and don't let him bang in those second chances."
Last post-season in round two, Byfuglien played that same role and was able to net two. In his 17 playoff games with the Hawks last year, he registered nine points (3-6-9). This time around, Byfuglien hasn’t recorded any points in the first eight playoff games so far.
"I'm just doing my job, and not worrying about anything else," said Luongo. "I'm not really interacting with any other guys, just focusing on fighting through the screens and the contact, and worrying about making the save."
GAME DAY NOTES
Though the Canucks dropped a 4-2 decision to the Blackhawks Monday in game two, heading home with a split is an accomplishment, especially against Chicago who finished the season 29-8-4 at the United Center, second best in the league - behind the Canucks.
"We went down there and got a split, it would've been nice to get two but the old rule in hockey is if you get one on the road it's a good start to a series," said O'Brien. "We're happy where we are and looking forward to getting back on home ice. The fans should be ready to go and it'll be a lot of fun."
The Canucks lead the league in home wins ending the regular season with a 30-8-3 record. The last time the Hawks visited GM Place was on January 23 when the Canucks took the game 5-1. Vancouver’s last game on home-ice resulted in a 7-3 game five win over the Los Angeles Kings but are 2-1 on home ice through the post-season so far.
The Canucks have experienced a little déjà vu this season facing the Hawks again in round two, winning game one, and losing game two. If there’s one thing the Canucks want to improve on in game three, it’s their power-play.
Chicago is second in the league on the penalty kill with 91.9%. The Canucks have only taken advantage of two opportunities of 10, and allowed one short-handed goal in the third period of game two. Having had the man-advantage six times in game two, and converting on just one, the Canucks could’ve as easily come home with a 2-0 series lead.
CANUCKS RECALL YAN STASTNY
Vancouver Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that the Canucks have recalled Manitoba Moose centre Yan Stastny.
The 27 year old appeared in 16 games with the Moose this season recording six points (2-4-6) and 18 penalty minutes. Before joining the Moose at the trade deadline, Stastny spent 49 games with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL this season where he registered 27 points (10-17-27) and 51 penalty minutes. He also appeared in six playoff games with the Moose recording four points (2-2-4) and eight penalty minutes.
The Quebec City native also played 91 career NHL games with the St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, and Edmonton Oilers where he registered 16 points (6-10-16) and 58 penalty minutes. He also played for Team USA in the 2005 IIHF World Championships.
The 6'0", 192 pound centre was originally selected in the eighth round, 259th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.