PYATT BACK IN TIME TO FACE DEVILS
The first meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and the New Jersey Devils this season takes place tonight at GM Place. Both teams without their star goaltenders look to bounce back from losses and gain momentum in their respective division battles.
Taylor Pyatt will be back in the lineup
for the Canucks, as the team begins to clear out their injured reserve. The players hope to regain the focus and work ethic that has defined their team identity this season.
Pyatt returns to the Canucks after missing eight games with a broken foot and is expected to play on a line with Mats Sundin tonight. Before his injury the winger tallied 10 points (4-6-10) in 36 games.
“I'm looking at it like [a fresh start],” said Pyatt. “Coach has given me a great opportunity to come back and play with some good players, so I know I have to go out and produce and play well. I'm looking to have a strong second half of the season.”
Last time the two teams squared off over a year ago, the Canucks handed the Devils a decisive 5-0 loss. Goaltender Jason LaBarbera will start between the pipes for Vancouver. The Devils will play Kevin Weekes, a former Canuck back-up, or Scott Clemmensen in net.
“Anytime you have a subpar effort, it’s always good to get back in there and I felt good the last couple days at practice,” said LaBarbera. “So I just have to go out there and play my game and be big, and just play well.
The Canucks have fallen to a 9-11-3 record without netminder and captain Roberto Luongo
. The team looks to get back on track and string some wins together as Luongo is poised to make a comeback from his groin injury that knocked him out of the game for seven weeks.
“It’s huge, you never want to be going into the [All-Star] break on a lull, struggling,” said LaBarbera. “You want to on a high note and actually enjoy your time off, instead of thinking about [everything] that’s going on. So the next few games are huge.”
For the first time this season the Canucks are winless in four games at GM Place (0-3-1). Head Coach Alain VIgneault and his team hope to break this unfavourable streak tonight.
“These games are really important,” said Vigneault. “I mean you just look at the standings every day it’s very competitive. Our conference, like I’ve said at least a hundred times is so competitive and each game is a challenge. You have to play with that sense of urgency and desperation every night to get those two points. Hopefully we’ll start finding ways to win, that’s what we need to do as a group."
“[Special teams] are always big,” said assistant captain Mattias Ohlund. “Our power play, with Mats coming in has looked a little bit better lately, hopefully we can keep that going. The key for our penalty kill is obviously not to take as many penalties as we did the previous two weeks.”SCRATCHES AND INJURY UPDATES
As Pyatt slots back in the lineup tonight the Canucks will have three healthy scratches. When Sami Salo
, out with a fractured rib and Luongo, return the management team will have some decisions to make.Jannik Hansen
, Mike Brown, and the extra defenceman Lawrence Nycholat will be healthy scratches for tonight's game.
“Jannik’s played well for us this year, he had a little slip there lately, but in general his progress has been good,” said Vigneault. “He’s a solid two-way player when he plays with an edge and he did a good job for us killing penalties. He’s a young player that has a lot of upside.
“Brownie [Mike Brown] is an energy, fourth line player, that has a physical dimension to his game. So depending on the opposition sometimes we’ve used him, lately we haven’t used him as much. All those things will get sorted out at the right time.”
Vigneault generally likes to keep eight defencemen on the roster, but will have to see how things work out in the near future.
Luongo's strong performance at team practice yesterday and admittion that he is feeling 100 percent has many speculating that he will play Thursday. Vigneault did not confirm a date, but says that if he has another solid practice Wednesday, the goalie is closing in on his return.
Salo, who participated in Monday's team practice, and skated again today for the optional team skate, is not expected to play Thursday. Salo is still experiencing pain on the ice, but hopes to be back before the All-Star break.
“Sami, is not as close. He’ll practice again [tomorrow], but he hasn’t taken any contact yet. I’m not sure how that’s going to unfold there.” FANTASY HOCKEY:
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