There's been a major presence missing on the Canucks number one penalty kill for the past couple games. Ryan Kesler
had a successful hip surgery Monday in Colorado and now has to endure the long healing process.
Coach Vigneault and Mike Burnstein (team medical trainer) think it'll take about 12-16 weeks for his recovery.
Everyone is optimistic for his return.
"Theoretically with him being a healthy young man, we're shooting for 12," said Vigneault.
Teammate Brendan Morrison knows what it's all about having gone through the same surgery last year and has some advice for Kesler.
"It's all a real slow process early on and you just have to be patient," says Morrison.
In 48 games this season, Kesler has 16 points (6-10-16). More
. SHOOTING FOR THURSDAY
Looks like the healing is almost done for Willie Mitchell, who participated in his first full skate with the team today since injuring his groin January 13.
"It felt good out there," he said. "It was nice, finally skated with the guys - the full group - yesterday I skated with half the group."
It's definitely positive to see him skating with the group but as expected, it's still going to take some time to get back into the groove after missing five games with the injury.
"I felt a little rusty with a few things out there as far as timing and passing."
Mitchell played one period in Ottawa before reaggrevating his injury, which set his return date back a few games so extra precaution is being taken this time around.
"Hopefully I'll be able to skate tomorrow with the team and hopefully with the permission of staff, I'll get a crack at it against Edmonton."
After having a good skate in the morning during their visit to Ottawa, Mitchell felt good and was cleared to play but after 7:14 on the ice, the pain returned.
And although he feels good now and the pain hasn't returned after his practice yesterday, there are things you just can't predict when the lights go on.
"You can never mimic a game situation so I'm not going to sit there and say that I can't go out there in a game and all of a sudden feel it. You can never mimic that but I don't feel it right now so it's time to test it in a good practice and then a game."
We'll all be watching for his hopeful return to the lineup Thursday against the Oilers. FREQUENT SHOOTING
The Canucks have been outshot in the last 13 straight, averaging almost 36 shots against per game in those 13. That's 10 shots more than the Canucks, who are averaging just over 25 shots a game.
"We know we have to be better," said Sami Salo
. "Especially in tight areas on the blueline. Cutting down on the opposition's shots and especially the scoring chances."
But with a record is 10-1-2 in those 13, it seems almost insignificant, almost.
"I think anytime we give around 40 shots is too many for us," said defenseman Kevin Bieksa
. "Definitely have to cut down or we're going to burn out Roberto too early."
There's no doubt the star of the team right now is Roberto Luongo
, who's second in wins with 28 and also second in shots against behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur in both those categories.
He's already garnered more than half of last year's shots and minutes played and is predicted to play out the rest of the 32 games this season but is a trooper and only has one thing in mind.
"It seems we give up more shots, we get more wins, so whatever works," Luongo said after Sunday's game. "Some nights I'm going to bail them out, and some nights they're going to bail me out. That's the way it works on a team. As long as we keep winning, that's all that matters."
Not only that but in those 13 games Luongo has posted one shutout, a 0.967 save percentage and a GAA of 1.19.
And how are they going to lower those shots?
"Better defensive play," says Bieksa. "I think maybe getting the puck out of our zone a little quicker. We've had some chances and once we don't get it out the first time, it's usually in our zone for at least another 30 seconds so bearing down and getting that first pass out."
"I think we're giving up 40-45 shots and that's a little bit too much," said Josh Green. "I know he likes the workload but hopefully one of these nights we can give him a break and get some goals and keep the shots at least under 30. I think he deserves that."
It is doable as they host the Blue Jackets ranked 27th in shots per game and outshooting Columbus 110-66 in their previous meetings this year. SHARP SHOOTERS
It'll be the last meeting between the Canucks and the Blue Jackets this year tonight, heading into this one where the Canucks lead the series 2-1.
Columbus has broken down the Canucks PK three times this year and have been able to convert five times in the last three games with the man advantage.
Their power-play is now ranked 22nd in the league and have improved their record to 20-25-5 after winning three straight at home.
"Their record lately speaks for themselves," said Vigneault. "Four wins in their last five games. I was able to watch their practice yesterday and they work extremely hard. They're really committed to following the way their coach wants them to play. Offensively, they don't have a lot of points but they have a lot of talent up front."
That talent includes All-Star, Rick Nash, who has two points (1-1-2) in three games against the Canucks.
"[Nash is] obviously their best player," says Bieksa. "We'll play him like we played Thornton and Marleau. We'll play them tight and in his face and everyone will be aware when he's on the ice."
"I think they have quite a few guys," said Sami Salo
. "Everybody knows they have Nash and they have [Sergei] Fedorov and [David] Vyborny's playing well so they have quite a few weapons that you have to try to shut down."
Vyborny's got four points, all assists in the last three games.
They're definitely on a high with their current run but the Canucks are prepared for hard fought game tonight.
"Definitely it won't be an easy one," said Luongo. "Every game we've played against them so far has been tight so we just have to get ready to play and come out strong."