SALO RE-JOINS TEAM
Canuck Defenceman Sami Salo skated with the team today at practice after missing the last two games. He was given a rest in San Jose last Thursday but was unable to play last Saturday against the Flames for an undisclosed personal reason.
"I was given the day off in San Jose, and something came up and I couldn't play against Calgary," said Salo. "Everything is all said and done now."
Salo should be ready to go for game one on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings. According to Salo, he is not 100%, he is 110% ready for game one. He was seen skating one again with fellow defenceman Alex Edler, a likely pairing for game one.
Defenceman Shane O'Brien will be ready to dress for Thursday's match after missing last game against the Flames with a minor injury. However Aaron Rome is still day-to-day with his injury.
GAME ONE PREPARATION
The regular season was a success for the Canucks as they pushed through countless injuries, an epic 14-game road trip, and finished boasting the first ever Art Ross Trophy winner.
With their first post-season meeting against the Kings just two days away, it’s time to shift gears into playoff mode and prepare for the highly anticipated game one. The Canucks won the season series 3-1 but in the post-season, everyone starts from scratch but having that record on their side doesn’t hurt.
"I think we're a little more confident this year," said Kyle Wellwood. "Playing LA, they're a really tough matchup for us first round. I think it's going to be a really hard series, and we're excited to start."
Even with home ice advantage, defeating the Kings won’t be a breeze. The Canucks are tied with the Washington Capitals for the most home wins this season with 30, but the Kings have had an impressive road record this year. They’re tied for first with the Capitals and San Jose Sharks, all with 24 road wins.
"We're definitely doing a little bit of our homework," said O'Brien. "We've played them four times, so we've seen them a bit. We're watching film and doing the little things here to know them even better."
In those four games against LA this season, the Canucks have spread out the scoring from Henrik Sedin and on down the line. Eight different players have netted goals against the Kings, the most scored by third line centre Kyle Wellwood (3).
"He's playing the best hockey of the season right now," said line mate Mason Raymond. "He's found his legs, and the back of his hands. He's a very creative player and has a great offensive touch and I think he's underestimated at how well he can play defensively."
Contribution from all forward and defensive lines is key to shutting down a highly skilled team like the Kings. Rather than changing their game, sticking to the system they’ve played all year will help the Canucks continue the success from the regular season.
"The first couple years, people may think it's a big difference and they change their game," said Henrik Sedin. "They do everything that they didn't do in the regular season and that's when you don't get success. The people that learn that it's the same game and you have to do the same thing, sure there's more at stake, but it's the same game."
Since playing for the Detroit Red Wings for four straight seasons, Canuck forward Mikael Samuelsson knows the feeling of going deep into the post-season. In 69 playoff games with the Red Wings, Samuelsson registered 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists). Since joining the Canucks, he has set new career highs in goals (30) and points (53).
"I think Mikael understands what it takes at this time of the year to put your best game on the ice," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "He's an extremely hard worker on and off the ice. He's very professional in how he conducts himself and how he gets ready. All I want from him is to be himself."
After excelling in the high pressure Olympic gold medal game, Roberto Luongo may be more comfortable playing between the pipes against the Kings in round one, but he’s not the only one.
Kings defenceman Drew Doughty had an impressive two weeks during the Olympics for Team Canada recording two assists. He is the second leading scorer for the Kings with 59 points (16-43-59), also the third highest scoring defenceman in the league.
"You can't get any more pressure than that," said Luongo. "I know Drew played unbelievable during that span, he was one of our best defenceman, and he's very young. I don't think he knows what pressure is at that age but those guys will be playing hard, they have a good team. Their guys are going to step up, just like we are, so it's going to be a good series."