By Derek Jory
A print reporter new to the Canucks beat had an interesting question for Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault Tuesday.
Vigneault switched up his team’s first and third lines and shuffled defensive pairings during the one-hour practice and the reporter wondered if the moves might be permanent.
It wasn’t quite Vern Fiddler doing Kevin Bieksa’s angry face, but coach laughed it up nonetheless.
“This is your first year here, right” chuckled Vigneault. “I’m never permanent with anything, anybody that’s been here for a while can tell you that.”
The message here is clear: don’t read too much into Tuesday’s groupings that had Mason Raymond skating with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows alongside Samuel Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen.
On defence Kevin Bieksa was with Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis with Chris Tanev, Marc-Andre Gragnani with Sami Salo and Aaron Rome with Andrew Alberts.
The media grabbed the new combinations and ran with them, which is about as shocking as Bachelor Ben choosing crazy Courtney, but Vigneault said he hasn’t made any decisions about his line-up for Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“We took a look at a couple of different scenarios, a couple of different possibilities and the coaches are going to meet later on today to discuss our next opponent Phoenix and see what we can come up with,” said Vigneault, adding that if he keeps Raymond with the twins, it changes the dynamic of the line.
“He would bring a little bit more speed, so it’s a possibility we’re going to discuss this afternoon, just like moving Alex with Jannik and Sammy, that’s another thing that we might consider here.”
Coach has been known to tip is hat one way or another in regards to his line-up, but he said things are truly up in the air for Wednesday.
The reason for the possible change Vigneault was more than happy to address, however.
“It’s pretty simple, we need our top players to play like our top players, we’re no different than the 29 other teams in the NHL, we’re a good team when our top players play the way they’re supposed to play. Right now, for whatever reason, we’ve got a couple of guys that are off their game and they need to find it for us to get back on track.”
Vigneault and his coaching staff took a hands off approach to getting back on track following a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday, with the Canucks given Sunday and Monday off.
It was appreciated, said captain Henrik Sedin.
“It was really nice, I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen in a season, except maybe the Christmas break. It was really good for us as a team to get away from the rink and not maybe see you guys for a few days.”
The players got away in body and in mind as well, which was important for everyone.
“Physically, I think we’re fine, that’s not a problem, we’re used to playing a lot of games, it’s more mental. It was a good time for us, a couple of weeks before playoffs start, to just get away and get our minds off hockey a little bit.”
In all the line-up shuffelin' shuffelin' the return of Andrew Ebbett was all but overlooked.
The 29-year-old, who began skating on his own last week, took part in his first full practice with the Canucks Tuesday 65 days after breaking his collarbone early in Vancouver’s 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins on January 7th.
Ebbett sported a grey practice jersey meaning he is not ready for contact; there is no timetable as of yet for his return to the Canucks line-up.