RESTED AND HEALTHY
The time off between series has been incredibly valuable for the Canucks, who had suffered minor injuries to key players.Sami Salo
missed the final match up against the Blues after registering four points (1-3-4) in the first three playoff games. Salo and Henrik Sedin
are tied with the second highest points total on the team this postseason, behind Daniel Sedin
with five (2-3-5).
His absence from the lineup is always noticeable, but the Turku, Finland native looked strong at practice today and will be ready for second round action.
“Extremely better without a doubt, you look at our record when [Salo is] in the lineup and when he’s not," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "I think it’s in two areas. Defensively he’s big, he’s strong, he’s very good one on one. But as soon as there’s a loose puck and he can get to it, he can beat a forecheck with a pass or by beating their first guy on the forecheck, we spend a lot less time in our zone, because of his ability to make that good first pass.”
“Anytime you lose one of your top guys you’re going to feel the trickle effect and everyone’s going to have to step up," said Shane O'Brien. "We got the job done in St. Louis without [Salo], but obviously it’s nice to have him back and healthy. And like I said when we can get our three pairs going and can get our match ups we’re a pretty tough d-core."
Today's practice followed a day off on Sunday and was attended by the entire roster, except for defenceman Willie Mitchell. Mats Sundin missed the last two games in St. Louis, but has been practicing with the team.
“[Mitchell] will practice tomorrow, we just wanted to give him an extra day to be sure it was totally taken care of and he should be good for tomorrow,” said Vigneault. “I talked to Mats after practice today and he said he is ready to go [for Round 2]."
Taylor Pyatt participated in his first full team practice since returning from a personal leave of absence last week.
“Today was [Pyatt’s] first practice. Originally he was scheduled to practice on his own before the team, but when I saw him this morning in the gym with his teammates I just told him you’re practicing with the team, let’s go and he was fine with it.
“It was his first official practice and he looked fine to me. I think if we need him here in the next couple of days he should be ready."RAISING INTENSITY
As the second round draws closer, the team has begun to increase the intensity of their practices and players rested and healthy are eager to play some games.
“[The time off is] kind of both, obviously it’s good to heal some bumps and bruises for the guys, but if you have too much time off it’s not good for timing and everything," said Salo. "But overall I think over the next few days we’ll be raising the intensity a little bit and preparing for the next game.”
Following their first round sweep of the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks have made the most of their time off, resting injuries, conditioning, and fine tuning their game.
They may know as early as tonight what team they will be facing in the second round, but regardless the players keep working on the ice improving their game.
“I think probably the people that have the toughest job right now are [the reporters]," said Vigneault. "I mean after so many days off I don’t know what you guys can possibly ask as far as questions. For us getting ready for games and getting ready for the next series, we know exactly what we need to do. The only thing we’re not quite sure of right now is who our opponent is going to be. We rested, we worked hard last week and now we’re going to take it to another level and get ready for whoever we meet.”
This morning's practice was notably more physical and high paced as the players replicated game situations.
“That’s our responsibility as coaches to make sure we have the type of drills and the type of practices that are going to make sure our guys are ready come the start of the series," said Vigneault. "I think last week we based most of our practices a little more on conditioning than anything else and the guys are working very hard off the ice, now we’re going to do more game-like drills and scrimmage just to make sure our guys stay sharp. We’ve talked about practicing hard, smart, being physical, that’s part of getting ready for the next playoffs series and I’m sure our guys are going to do that.
“Great players find ways to elevate their game and bring it to other levels. [Roberto Luongo
has] done that and he’s focused. We need him to obviously bring his game to another level because as it continues it’s going to get more challenging every game.”
Goalie consultant Ian Clark will be in town in the next few days to work with Luongo, enhancing his game and prepping him for another intense round.
“It’s a mental challenge, that’s the big part for us, it’s been the big challenge so far,” said Kevin Bieksa
. “Physically you feel pretty good right now, it’s just staying focused and staying in game mode."