By Derek Jory
The Vancouver Canucks hit the ice Saturday for a 35 minute practice at Sharks Ice, the official practice facility of the San Jose Sharks and the biggest ice hockey facility west of the Mississippi.
Noticeably absent from practice were both Aaron Rome and Chrisitian Ehrhoff, neither of whom finished Game 3, as well as Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Ryan Kesler or Maxim Lapierre.
With defencemen dropping like flies and the status of both Rome and Ehrhoff uncertain for Game 4 Sunday, Chris Tanev travelled to San Jose and despite a flight delay, he made it to the rink 20 minutes before practice.
The 21-year-old defenceman, who recorded one assist in 29 games with the Canucks this season before ending the year with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, hasn’t been told if he’ll play in Game 4 or if he was brought down as insurance.
Tanev is just happy to be here.
“It would be a dream come true,” Tanev said, on potentially slotting into the line-up. “I’m here, we’ll see what happens, I’m here to help the guys.”
Although Tanev doesn’t have any NHL playoff experience on his resume, he was a big part of a strong playoff run by the Moose, one that saw them claw back from a big hole to win the first round, only to go the distance in Round 2, coming up short in Game 7.
In 14 games, Tanev had a goal and two assists, alongside a team-high plus-7 rating.
“It was a really good experience, we were down 3-1 in the first round and came back and then down 2-0 in the second round and we lost in Game 7, but it definitely helped me.”
BALLARD OR ALBERTS OR BOTH?
Neither, one or both Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts could end up playing Game 4.
Post-practice neither said they knew if they were slotting in and coach Alain Vigneault, although complimentary of both, also didn’t reveal anything.
Alberts has played only three games this post-season, two in Round 1 and one against Nashville, while Ballard, who was thought to be brought in as a stable figure on the backend, has just seven games under his belt, having missed the last 11.
Whatever happens, coach still believes in Ballard and Ballard still believes in himself.
“I have a lot of faith in Keith,” said Vigneault. “He has played some good hockey for us. Obviously I think that he'd probably like to have maybe a little bit bigger role on our team. I mean, nobody hides that. He's been used to more minutes in the past with the prior teams he's played with, but on this team, we feel that there are some guys right now that are playing better than him, and that's why he's getting those minutes or dressing or not dressing.
Your attitude determines your latitude and Ballard is keeping his spirits high.
“My confidence is good,” said Ballard. “There’s been some ups and downs this year, definitely, and it’s been tough a lot lately sitting and watching and seeing what the guys are going through and how hard they’re playing and how hard it is out on the ice. But one thing I haven’t lost is my confidence.”
GAME 4: THE MATINEE
In the past, Roberto Luongo wouldn’t have been in favour of a 12 p.m. start to any game, let alone a playoff battle.
He’s fine with the series resuming Sunday at noon, however, for one reason.
“It doesn’t give you time to think, you just go out there and play,” said Luongo, who is tied with Tim Thomas for the NHL lead in playoff wins with 10.
“I don’t mind them at all anymore, it’s a different preparation, but it’s kind of nice. It doesn’t give you time to think, you just go out there and play.”
The earliest the Canucks played this season was 1 p.m., a 3-1 win over the Kings in Los Angeles. Luongo backed Vancouver with 21 saves.