SALO READY FOR SHARKS
The Canucks (22-19-6) head into Shark territory tonight to face off against the San Jose club (33-6-5) in the toughest road arena in the league. The Sharks have lost only once at home this season. Despite a recent losing streak the Canucks squad is determined to turn their game around.
Vancouver put up a strong effort the last time the two teams met earlier this month, keeping the game tied at 2-2, before the Sharks pulled ahead in the third to win the game 4-2. The team have not defeated San Jose in their previous six meetings.
The Canucks are close to being completely healthy as veteran defenceman Sami Salo
returns tonight. Coming off Sunday's 6-5 shootout loss against Columbus, the Canucks were motivated by the significant progress of their play. The Sharks last game was a hard fought 6-5 victory over Detroit on January 17th.
Salo’s return after missing 15 games with a fractured rib reunites Vancouver’s top six d-men, brings experience to the blue line, and a powerful shot to the power play.
The Canucks record without Salo was 4-9-2 and they went 8-for-61 on the power play in his absence. His return to the lineup will also ease the burden on the other defencemen who have shouldered extra minutes during his recovery.
"One thing Sami does really well is he goes from offence to defence," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "One stride and one pass and it's out and we're attacking."
The Canucks look to head into the week-long All Star break on a positive note, turning their record around after dropping seven straight at home.
"I would have wanted a few more games going into the break, but at least I have a big challenge going against the best team in the NHL," said Salo. "I felt really good the last three or four days and there were no restrictions on me to say wait another day. That doesn't do anything for me except miss another game. I feel really confident and I'm looking forward to this game."
The Canucks are 10-4-1 this season when a defenceman scores and Vigneault expects his team to get on a winning streak as soon as the blueline regains their form and captain Roberto Luongo
finds his rhythm.
"We're real close to getting the ball rolling our way here," said Vigneault. "We're going to have to be patient. I'm not sure how much longer, but I do see those guys' game coming along.
"When [Luongo] finds his groove, we're going to be in great shape."
Luongo will play his third game back tonight after missing 24 games with a groin injury, before heading to the All Star game in Montreal where he will share goaltending duties for the Western Conference team with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Niklas Backstrom. Luongo hopes playing this weekend against the best players in the league will help elevate his game to the level it was at before his injury.
Winger Mason Raymond
will be back in the mix tonight, taking Pavol Demitra’s spot in the lineup, playing with Mats Sundin and Jannik Hansen
. Demitra sustained a groin strain during Sunday’s game that is not believed to be serious.
The expected offensive lines and defensive pairings for tonight's match up are as follows:
D.Sedin - H.Sedin - Pyatt
Raymond - Sundin - Hansen
Burrows - Kesler - Bernier
Hordichuk - Johnson - Wellwood
Ohlund - Salo
Mitchell - Bieksa
O'Brien - Edler
"I think we know we can beat San Jose," said Alex Burrows. "Every team in this league can beat anyone at any given time. We know that and we just have to go in there and do it. For sure, I think we're due against them."
The Canucks will face Claude Lemieux in his first game back in the NHL since retiring nearly six years ago. Lemieux, who has come out of retirement this season and signed with the Sharks AHL team, has won four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy throughout his career. San Jose is missing a few injured players and recalled the veteran winger from the AHL's Worcester Sharks on Monday.
The puck drops tonight at 7:30pm PST and can be watched in Canada on TSN. FANTASY HOCKEY:
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