Tonight the Canucks kick off the 2009.10 season against Northwest Division rivals the Calgary Flames. Last season’s home opener saw the Canucks bury the Flames with back-to-back home-and-home wins.
Alex Burrows is expected to reunite alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the team’s top line.
“From day one it worked really well with [Burrows],” said Henrik Sedin. “We haven’t played much this pre-season, but it seems every time we get on the ice we’re having a lot of fun and seems like we’re finding each other out there. It should be good.”
Twenty-three-year-old Shirokov, who impressed the Canucks during the pre-season leading the team in points (2-5-7), is expected to play with linemates Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson, and will likely play on the team’s first power-play unit with the Sedins.
“[Shirokov] did a great job in the last two games where we played against NHL players,” said Henrik Sedin.
“If you can put up points in the Russian League I think that’s a very good sign. It’s a very good league. He’s played against men for a number of years. I think that’s a big difference from coming from juniors. You can tell he’s got the patience to play in this league, so I’m not nervous at all.”
"The kid seems to have some upside and we might as well see what he can do at the start of the season," said Head Coach Alain Vigneault.
"Obviously, there is always adjustments to be made as the season goes on and we'll see if he can handle the moment. If he can, great for us. If he can't, we'll make some adjustments."
Netminder Roberto Luongo is expected to get the start in goal.
“I feel good,” said Luongo. “I feel good and ready to go. I feel on top on my game right now, but that being said I felt the same way last year. I’m just going to go out there and play hard, and play with the same confidence I had during training camp.”
Thirty year-old Luongo, who inked a long-term deal this summer, posted 33 wins, a .920 save percentage, and 2.34 goals-against average last season.
Expected lines for tonight’s game:
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Burrows
Shirokov - Kesler - Samuelsson
Raymond - Wellwood - Bernier
Hordichuk - Johnson - Rypien
Mitchell - Salo
Edler - Ehrhoff
Bieksa - O'Brien
Kevin Bieksa, who tweaked his groin during the third period of Sunday’s night’s game in Edmonton, practiced yesterday and is expected to suit up tonight in Calgary. Rick Rypien who has been battling the flu, is also expected to see game action. Puck drops at 7 PST.