It was reported last week that Ryan Johnson could be returning to the Canucks line-up as early as this coming Wednesday, just in time for the divisional game against the Edmonton Oilers. His return presents a possible dilemma for the Canucks.
Before injuring his foot on December 22 against the Nashville Predators, RJ found himself juggled between the third and fourth lines, mainly on the latter. Placing him in one of his former spots will cause another player to take a seat in the press box.
Also, with the future return of Steve Bernier, who also played flip-flopped lines, another player could be edged out to make room for him.
Assuming no changes are made to the top two trios, possible candidates to make the switcheroo with Johnson and Bernier are Jannik Hansen, Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien, and Kyle Wellwood.
Hansen (5-4-9) returned on January 11 in place of Bernier and now plays in the third line. Though he’s only suited up for 23 out of the 48 games this season, he excelled in his last outing against the Pittsburg Penguins on Saturday where he assisted Henrik Sedin in his first period goal, and scored one himself in the second. Yet prior to January 11, Hansen found himself out of the lineup for six games.
Glass has played 44 games this season and has the same number of points as Hansen, with a four goals and five assists, but hasn’t been able to bank any points in the last seven games.
Hordichuk, with one goal and one assist, has played 33 games this year. Though not producing any points in the last 19 games, Hordi is a prominent presence on the ice when it comes to anything physical and has been since his return on December 26.
Rypien, also known as one of Vancouver’s tough guys, has accumulated six points this season (3-3-6) in 41 games and scored an important first goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Canucks win on January 5.
Last to possibly leave the lineup is Kyle Wellwood, current centre of the third line with recently returned Pavol Demitra and Jannik Hansen. With 12 points this season (4-8-12) in 41 games, he currently has the most points out of the previously mentioned players. Last season Wellwood scored 18 goals for the Canucks.
The upside of Vancouver being forced to play the numbers game is that it creates some internal competition between the players, which is always a bonus as Mikael Samuelsson told Ben Kuzma from the Province.
“That’s what it’s about,” said Samuelsson. “Guys are going to feel a little pressure and it’s great, I think. You get pissed off if you’re not in the lineup and that’s how it should be.”
VIGNEAULT SHAKES HEAD AT MACLEAN
The game against the Penguins was not the only tough thing Alex Burrows would face on Saturday. Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron MacLean showed an 11 minute feature of various moves by Burrows that resulted in penalties to illustrate his siding vote with Stefan Auger and the NHL, a vote that did not go over well with Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
Iain MacIntrye from the Vancouver Sun provides a quote from MacLean regarding Alex’s fall to the ice in Nashville on December 8, from which a 5-minute penalty was drawn.
"Obviously when Burrows went down, we all thought he was dead," MacLean told a national audience and National Hockey League vice-president Colin Campbell."[Roberto] Luongo comes out and says: 'Are you OK?' And it looks to us, on TV, like [Burrows is] saying: 'Don't worry, I'm just going to get more bang for the buck here.' And then Mike Burnstein, the trainer, is in and he's having a look, and you can see Burrows say: 'Don't worry, has he signaled five yet?'"
Vigneault continued to support his player and believed the excerpt showed by MacLean was unnecessary and one sided.
"I think it's really unfair for your boy, Ron MacLean, to go after Alex the way he did tonight and the footage that he did tonight," said Vigneault, after the game on Saturday. "Maybe Ron MacLean should have had the footage of Auger and Burrows skating 31 seconds together before the game. That footage has never come out."
Burrows continues to excel and including Saturday’s game, he’s scored 11 goals in the last seven contests. He wants to focus on the game and his team and not on recent negative events.
"Obviously there are some great refs in this league and it doesn't bother them I'm sure, what happened," Burrows told MacIntrye. "I still have to be the same person. I'm a passionate guy that plays with emotion. Even if I wanted to change, I don't think I could. That's just me and that's what got me to the NHL. That's what makes me a good person, I like to believe."
Canuck forward Mikael Samuelsson, who did not make the cut for the 2010 Olympics for Team Sweden, has not let it get to him, and continues to prove his worthiness for the Olympics with six goals in his last nine games.
However, injury reports for the Swedish Team do not look well. Peter Forsberg is currently suffering from foot problems and cracked ribs, while Tomas Holmstrom is healing from a fractured foot.
Ben Kuzma from the Province recently offered some interesting facts on this issue. Olympic hockey teams have until February 15 to make any roster changes if needed. Samuelsson may be one of the candidates called upon in place of Forsberg and Holmstrom. Samuelsson did not answer questions from Kuzma regarding the topic.
"I'm not going to answer that question," said Samuelsson. "If I get that question [from Gustafsson] then I've got to think about it."
According to Kuzma, Canuck teammates look down upon the decision to exclude Samuelsson.
"It doesn't make any sense to me," said Burrows. "He's such a smart player and great offensively and defensively and a great team guy. He always puts the team first."