Canucks' Luongo returns versus Lightning
The Sports Network previews the tonight’s Canuck game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“The Vancouver Canucks will welcome back Roberto Luongo
tonight with open arms, as they battle the Lightning at Tampa Bay's St. Pete Times Forum,” said The Sports Network.
“Luongo skipped the All-Star Game to spend time with his pregnant wife, and was also given permission by Vancouver to miss the club's first game after the break.”
“Without Luongo in net, the Canucks dropped a close 4-3 test versus Dallas. Curtis Sanford started for Vancouver, but allowed three goals on 12 shots before getting pulled in the second period. Drew MacIntyre made 10 saves in relief.”
, Ryan Kesler
and Markus Naslund scored for the Canucks, who have lost five of their last six games (1-4-1).”
“Vancouver now sits fourth in the Northwest Division, but just four points back of first-place Minnesota. The club begins a four-game road trip tonight that next has the club playing Florida. The Canucks have lost five of their last six as the visitor and are 12-10-3 on the road this season,” said The Sports Network.
“The Canucks have fared very well all-time against the Lightning, going 14-3 with a pair of ties in 19 matchups. Vancouver is 5-0 with two ties in the last seven, and hasn't played in Tampa Bay since November 29, 2002, a Canucks win.”
“Tampa Bay hasn't defeated Vancouver since October 25, 1998.”
“Tampa Bay has lost two straight following a three-game win streak, and its 45 points are the fewest among Eastern Conference clubs. The Lightning opened up their second half on Tuesday and lost a 4-2 contest against Buffalo.”
“Vaclav Prospal had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, Brad Richards also scored and Dan Boyle recorded two helpers in the setback. Johan Holmqvist allowed four goals on 26 shots in defeat,” said The Sports Network.
“Michel Ouellet returned to the lineup after missing the previous 18 games with a dislocated left shoulder for Tampa Bay.”
“Tampa Bay plays the fourth test of a five-game homestand tonight and is 1-2-0 thus far on the residency. The Lightning are 13-12-2 at home, having lost seven of their last eight at St. Pete Times Forum, and conclude the stand on Saturday against Florida.”
Injuries on D start of woes: Offensive capability has been taking a major hit, too
Jason Botchford said the Canucks blueline is becoming increasingly depleted.
“The Canucks' top six defencemen have missed 89 man-games to injury this year. And that number is growing fast,” said Botchford.
, the Fragile Finn, is the latest to suffer an injury, his third of the season. He left Tuesday's game late in the third period and is not expected to play the first game of the Canucks' road trip. If he doesn't it will be the 18th game he's missed this year.”
"He tweaked his groin a little bit," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm not sure of the severity. He will have to be re-evaluated."
“Injuries to defencemen are nothing new and that's hurt the Canucks, a team built from the back end out,” said Botchford.
"This is challenging," Vigneault said. "It's been happening to our most-key people.”
“Because our defence has been banged up, it puts a lot of stress on our forwards and goaltenders. It also takes away from our offence. But, you know, it's no different than any other team. You have to find ways to win."
“The Canucks will have to find ways to win tonight without Salo, Willie Mitchell and, possibly, Lukas Krajicek,” said Botchford.
“The team recalled Luc Bourdon and could feature a six-man blueline that includes he, Mike Weaver and Nathan McIver.”
“That would leave just two of the team's original top-six D-men in the lineup: Aaron Miller and Mattias Ohlund. The Canucks, thanks to their depth at the position, have shown an ability to keep scoring chances down despite the injuries. But they've given up higher-quality chances recently.”
“Ohlund is being asked to carry a heavy load. He has played more than 30 minutes in the past two games in a do-it-all role, which is well above his 23:31 season average. He's now the shutdown defender going up against top lines, the power-play quarterback and the only D who's been able to consistently generate offensive chances,” said Botchford.
"The minutes are the one thing that is changing," said Ohlund, who recently missed 11 games with a concussion. "Before, when we've had injuries, the minutes have stayed down because we have depth. Now with the injuries there is a need to play a lot more."
"Everybody was supportive and they told me to take my time," he said of his injury. "I didn't feel any pressure to come back before I was healthy."
“Mitchell played for three weeks without knowing he had a stress fracture in a vertebra in his lower back. He revealed part of the reason he kept playing was because of the number of injured defencemen,” said Botchford.
"The last three or four games I felt I had something more than a back injury," he said.
"But there were a lot of guys out . I was just trying to stay in the lineup. We're getting pretty short on D back there. I was just trying to fight through it and get through the games."
Like love, losing can hurt: Coach stymied: Injuries, inexperience and, sometimes, lack of talent
Jason Botchford said non-indicative results are wearing on Vigneault.
“More frustration seeped from Alain Vigneault after Tuesday's game than anyone who saw it could remember,” said Botchford.
“He didn't blow up. He never has, not here.”
“But he displayed the type of smouldering frustration which so often accompanies losing, the type Vigneault had largely avoided with the Canucks, hiding any with his humour, his confidence and that twinkle in his eye which can so often make you believe he knows something you don't.”
“After Tuesday's loss to Dallas, however, there was no humour, no twinkle and that confidence had taken a beating. He was abrupt, defensive and, in moments, exasperated with questions,” said Botchford.
"Yes, without a doubt, [Tuesday] night was one of my most frustrating moments since I've been here," Vigneault admitted Wednesday in an interview with The Province.
“But it wasn't the questions that set Vigneault off, it was the results his team has been producing,” said Botchford.
“On his way home after the loss, Vigneault's brain was churning. He felt he got so much out of his team. They gave him a commendable defensive showing from a depleted blueline, more than enough scoring chances and a valiant effort both to start the game and to end it.”
“It still wasn't enough. And that was frustrating.”
“Given their recent foundering, the coach said that he began to view himself more as a parent, one who has children struggling just to be average,” said Botchford.
"I was thinking about this going home. It's sort of like I'm the parent and I have a son or daughter having trouble in school," Vigneault said. "You work with them to improve and you keep working with them. You get them a tutor. Then they go to write their exam and they are still an average student. Nothing changes. They get frustrated. This is where my frustration lies -- the kid is putting in a lot of effort but he's still average."
“If the NHL is school, the Canucks are in trouble. They are getting straight Cs and on the cusp of joining the remedial class which spends each spring on the golf course, thinking about what went wrong,” said Botchford.
“The Canucks have plenty -- some say too many -- average students. Some will say they are built with third- and fourth-liners who'll never be able to put the puck in the net with any consistency, no matter how hard they work.”
“That leaves each game in the hands of the defence and a goalie they need to be perfect, or close to it.’
“That's not how Vigneault views the situation,” said Botchford.
"When you see your son or daughter putting in the effort and it's not going their way, you have to stay with them, you have to believe in them. You have to believe that with hard work, sooner or later it will all pay off. I believe in our players."
“The Canucks are desperate for wins and, as fate has it, are preparing to play teams from the Southeast Division where wins are handed out like those vacuous freebie newspapers along the Skytrain -- you get one whether you like it or not,” said Botchford.
“But the Canucks are fragile right now, having won just three of their last 10. All those victories were in the shootout. The last in regulation was Jan. 3, over the Rangers 3-0.”
“In the past 10 games the Canucks have outshot their opponents seven times, including the past four in a row. At the very least, it shows the team has maintained a strong work ethic during this slump.”
"We're busting our butts," Vigneault said. "But the results aren't going our way right now. The only thing you can do is not shrug your shoulders, keep your head high and believe that all this hard work is going to pay off.”
"That same thing applies to parents when you have a daughter or a son who is struggling. That's what applies to us right now. We are getting a Grade A effort from our troops but the results just aren't there.”
"I really think our guys are preparing and laying it out but, for the eighth time in I don't know how many games, the other team scored the first goal Tuesday."