FACING OFF AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
The Canucks are in New York tonight for their first meeting with the Rangers since January 2008 when Vancouver defeated their opponents 3-0 at GM Place. D-man Alex Edler will be back in the lineup as the Canucks face off against the top Eastern conference team.
Edler has been fighting an infectious throat ailment, joined the team on the four game road trip, although he flew commercial by himself and did not play in the 2-1 SO loss to the Islanders. He practiced with the team Tuesday and felt good afterwards.
"Much better," said Edler. "I felt pretty good out there today. I've been having fever and sore throat the last couple, three or four days. [But] I felt good on the ice today."Kevin Bieksa
, out 2-4 weeks with a fractured foot, and Rick Rypien, recovering from sports hernia surgery will remain out of the lineup. Mike Brown will be a healthy scratch.
Defenceman Rob Davison will sit out as Edler slots back into the lineup. Head coach Alain Vigneault is expected to play the lines that practiced on Tuesday, including Pavol Demitra with the Sedins, Kyle Wellwood with Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier, Ryan Kesler
with Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen
, and Mason Raymond
with Ryan Johnson and Darcy Hordichuk.
Tonight's game at Madison Square Garden is one of the most anticipated of the season, as the players pay a rare visit to New York City and face off against former Canuck captain, teammate, and friend Markus Naslund for the first time since he signed with the Rangers as a free agent in the off-season.
"He gave it all every night and I'm not just saying that because I'm his friend or that he was our captain," said Kesler. "He cared a lot about the team. He scores two goals and we lose and he's probably the maddest guy in the room. You don't always get a captain like him and everybody had a lot of respect for him."
Naslund was acquired by Vancouver in 1996 and went on to play 11 more seasons in a Canucks uniform, setting numerous franchise records during that time, including most career points (756), most goals in a season (48), assists (56), and points by a left-winger (104).BATTLE OF THE NETMINDERS
Excluding their 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs the Canucks have five goals in four games, dropping them to the middle of the NHL pack offensively. Despite their lack of scoring, the Canucks have won four of their last six games, due in a large part to the strong play of goaltender Roberto Luongo
Luongo continues his consistently outstanding play night in and night out, allowing only five goals in the last six games. He has a league-leading five shutouts to go with his 10-5-2 mark, 2.14 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. While Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is also posting impressive numbers, Luongo only concerns himself with what is going on at his end of the rink.
He will make his 14th straight start tonight. Curtis Sanford will likely start in net on Thursday against Minnesota.
"I've only been in two games and started one,” said Sanford. “It's up to me to stay positive and stay ready. The way Roberto's been playing, there's not much I can do about it. If he's playing like that, there's no other way than to keep him in there."
Tonight the Canucks (10-6-2) look to generate more offence against the Rangers (14-5-2) who won their last game against Ottawa 2-1 SO and have been playing competently, led by the solid work of Lundqvist in net.
The Canucks recognize they need to supplement Luongo's solid play with offence and are working to convert more chances into goals heading into their match up with the Rangers tonight. Tuesday’s practice focused heavily on the power play that was 0-for-4 against the Islanders.
"There's work than can be done, and we're trying to do that," said Vigneault. "We're trying to get more pucks to the net, more bodies to the net. Working at it and getting our power play to function a little better, I think we'll finish more."Mason Raymond
who has been struggling, going five games without a goal, is confident he can turn his puck luck around. Vigneault feels the same way and thinks Raymond will be better for the struggle.
"Mace is no different than a lot of young players," said Vigneault. "They go through, you know, a little bit of challenging times. It's just one of these little phases here that's going to make him a better player. I'm really confident that sooner or later he'll help us win some games."
The puck drops at 4:30pm PST and can be seen on TSN.OTHER NEWS:
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.