The NHL is officially back on. The Canuck Olympians are getting in late tonight (or early depending on your viewpoint - they’ll roll in around 3am). Roberto Luongo has earned an extra day of rest with Andrew Raycroft starting Tuesday against the Blue Jackets.
All seven Olympians elected to stay in Vancouver and finish out their Olympic experience. The team gave them that option (in fact, they encouraged it) and sent the charter back to pick them up. I doubt most of them will skate Tuesday morning, or Wednesday morning with the back-to-back games. It will up to strength and conditioning coach Roger Takahashi to manage them a bit over the next few days.
The rest of the team watched the game together yesterday. They had most of the hotel sports bar to themselves. There was no doubt who most of them were cheering for, though Shane O’Brien was the only one willing to say out loud (with a coy smile on his face) that he didn’t want Ryan Kesler to win gold.
It got pretty quiet with nerves in the third period and again in overtime. There were a few American fans in the pub, but they weren’t very vocal. The coaching staff seemed pretty relieved by the outcome. I think everyone is excited to see how a gold medal will impact Luongo for the remaining 21 games of the season.
The Canucks have six defensemen at practice right now, with Sami Salo and Christian Ehrhoff still absent. Kevin Bieksa doesn’t want to speculate about a chance of returning at some point on this trip. Head Coach Alain Vigneault figured he would return during the back-to-back home games in mid March once the team returns from the road trip.
Nolan Baumgartner will likely be the odd man out Tuesday, but I would guess he will play at some point on this trip. Vigneault said he really liked what he brought to the table in the 8 games he has played (1-0-1, +3).
What will be interesting is to see how Pavol Demitra will be used starting tomorrow. Vigneault said Demitra needs to be in the top 6 to have an impact, so now it’s a question of who will come off the second line. My guess is Mikael Samuelsson will play with Wellwood and Bernier, but we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow.
It will be a whirlwind few days with the back-to-back games and the trade deadline, no better way to get right back into the season.