O'BRIEN RE-JOINS TEAM
Shane O'Brien participated in the Canucks morning skate Sunday after spending five days away from the team and missing the last two games.
"I just want to make a quick apology to my teammates," said O'Brien to begin his availability with the media. "This time of year - we've been fighting so hard to put ourselves in the position that we're in - for a distraction like this to come before winning hockey games and getting ready for the playoffs. I owe them a big apology. They're all great guys in there and they've all been great to me since I've been here."
Although he has resumed practice with the team, he will not dress against Minnesota tonight.
During his time away from the team, O'Brien has been working out everyday to fulfill the coaches' wishes to lose weight. He was at 235 prior to his break from the team and has worked down to his current 227 pounds.
"It hasn't been a whole lot of fun. I've been working with [Glenn Carnegie, Canucks skill coach] and he's been working me pretty hard. I made a mistake - I'm human and things happen. Obviously, being a professional, that's no excuse. It's a privilege to play in the NHL and an honour but I made a mistake and I learned from it. I did my time and I'm looking forward to moving forward and helping the team whenever I get back in the lineup."
"They want me under 230 and I'm a professional so I have to do what they want from me. I guess I slipped up over the Olympic break and it's not very professional and they weren't too happy about it."
O'Brien missed practice Tuesday when coach Alain Vigneault decided to have O'Brien take time away from the team.
"He's the coach and he's the boss and that's why he gets paid to make those decisions. he did what he thought would be good for the team and I'm in no position to argue it. I made a mistake and when you make a mistake in life, there are consequences and I know that so I've got to be a man and step up and take the punishment."
"Whatever we did with Shane, we did it in his best interest and the best interest of the team and it's internal," said Vigneault.
O'Brien is a plus-16 in 63 games with the Canucks this season and registered two goals and six assists during that span.
RETURN TO THE LINEUP
After missing the last seven games with a shoulder injury, Mikael Samuelsson makes his return to the Canucks lineup tonight against the Wild.
Samuelsson has been skating with the team all last week and travelled with the team on the most recent trip to work his way back.
He is currently fifth on the team for scoring with 53 points and second in goals with 30 (behind Alex Burrows' 35). In nine games Samuelsson dressed since the Olympic break, he had nine goals, 13 points, and is a plus-7 during that span.
With the addition of Samuelsson, one forward will sit tonight but Vigneault didn't say who that will be - it will be a "surprise" (his words, not ours).
Roberto Luongo celebrates his 31st birthday tonight and will be back between the pipes for the Canucks, trying for a third division title in the past four years.
All he wants for his birthday is simple.
"A big tonight would be nice," he says with a smile.
He is 2-4-1 in his last seven games and would like to get back on track beginning with Minnesota tonight.
IN A CLINCH
After securing a spot in the Western Conference elite eight Friday night, the Canucks are one point away from sealing their third division title in the past four years.
The Colorado Avalanche, who are sitting in second in the Northwest are also in action tonight and a loss would also crown Vancouver Northwest champs. The Avs take on the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center at 5pm.
Having played one more game than the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks are five points back of second place in the West.
Chicago has one back-to-back series remaining against bubble teams, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues while the Canucks play every other day to close out the regular season. The Blackhawks have already locked up the Central division with the Canucks hoping to follow suit against the Wild.
Vancouver plays at home in three of the four remaining games (including tonight's game), all against Northwest opponents. Chicago gets home-ice advantage in three of their five games left and two of the three against divisional rivals. or right on the edge of doing so
That second place spot isn't completely out of the question but it's no cake walk. Let's just wait and see.
300 AND COUNTING
The Vancouver Canucks celebrate their 300th consecutive sellout at GM Place tonight as they host the Wild, who have had their share of visits to the arena during that time.
Althoug Luongo hasn't been here for all 300 games, he's been here to experience some of the best times in the building and he hopes to continue building on that.
"It's been awesome, obviously the city cares about this team and it's great to see the support," said Luongo. "Not only by selling out every night but everywhere you go in the city, the people are very supportive and proud of their team. Hopefully we can do something nice for them."
The game can be seen on CanucksTV Pay-Per-View at 7:00pm. Live pre-game beginning at 6:25pm and post-game immediately following the game will be shown on Canucks.com.