Forward Rick Rypien will make his long awaited return to the Canucks lineup tonight in Minnesota when Vancouver takes on division rivals the Wild.
Rypien flew to St. Louis last Thursday to join the team on the road, practicing with his teammates for the first time since being sidelined in October with a sports hernia injury.
"He makes us a better team going into the playoffs," said assistant coach Rick Bowness. "We've got seven games to go and we don't want his first game back to be in the playoffs. This is the perfect time now, on the road.
"We'll get him a couple games now and we'll go from there."
In five games with the Canucks this season Rypien, a native of Coleman, Alberta, registered two goals and seven penalty minutes. Rypien is expected to play on the fourth line with Ryan Johnson.
"We've been waiting for him for a long time, so it's great to have him back," said Alex Burrows when Rypien first rejoined the team last week. "He's a guy who's great in the room, a lot of energy and grit, physical player. We're really happy to have him back."
With Rypien's return, the Canucks are entirely healthy heading down the stretch, carrying 24 players on their roster. Prior to the NHL trade deadline, 23 is the maximum number of healthy players a team can have, however after the deadline a team can carry more as long as the players were their property prior to the deadline.CANUCKS IN WILD TERRITORY
The Canucks (41-25-9) are in Minnesota to play the Wild (36-32-8) tonight, the final game of their six-game road trip. The Wild are fighting for their playoff lives, sitting in 11th place in the West, three points behind St. Louis in the final playoff spot.
The season series between Minnesota and Vancouver sits at 4-0-1 in favour of the Canucks, who look to continue their charge down the final stretch.
"When a game becomes physical and players stick up for each other, like you saw [Sunday], there's a sense of unity and pride," said Willie Mitchell. "You're playing for each other. I thought it was great. I liked seeing it. I think it created some awareness for us as far as the time of year it is. When you see that stuff and that emotion, it just gets me excited for what's coming, and that's the playoffs."
Captain Roberto Luongo
will start in net against the Wild. Defencemen Ossi Vaananen and Rob Davison will be healthy scratches. It is likely that forwards Jannik Hansen
and Darcy Hordichuk will sit out.
The Canucks' roster has not yet been finalized for tonight's game. The probable lines are as follows:
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Burrows
Demitra - Sundin - Kesler
Raymond - Wellwood - Bernier
Rypien - Johnson - Pyatt
Mitchell - Salo
Ohlund - Edler
Bieksa - O'Brien
With their 4-0 win over the Blackhawks on Sunday, the Canucks moved within one point of the Calgary Flames and the Northwest Division lead. The Canucks have seven games left in the regular season, while the Flames have six. The two teams have one remaining matchup against each other, a week from today.
Tonight’s game faces off at 5:00pm PST and can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet Pacfic.FANTASY HOCKEY:
Check out Canucks Fantasy Hockey
, a free online game that allows you to play against other Vancouver Canucks fans as you attempt to earn the most points during each of the Vancouver Canucks' regular season hockey games.