VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are finally healthy again, which means coach Willie Desjardins has some tough roster decisions against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Desjardins was spared from a tough call by giving forward Alexandre Burrows, who has been nursing a suspected groin injury, an extra day off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. With Burrows now ready to return, someone has to come out of the lineup.
“It makes it difficult but it’s all good,” Desjardins said.
The coach hinted he might use the newfound depth to rest veterans down the stretch, even with the Canucks just two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who are currently out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It's not like we’re ever totally healthy at this time of year,” Desjardins said. “Nobody is. We have a couple things still.”
"If everyone can play, it won’t be easy choosing who comes out."
Ronalds Kenins is a rookie forward playing on the fourth line, but he had an assist in the 4-1 victory against Toronto, drew praise from Maple Leafs coach Peter Horacheck (even if he didn’t know Kenins' name, referring to his number), and has 11 points in 18 NHL games.
Zack Kassian was a frequent healthy scratch earlier this season and has one goal in his past seven games after scoring four in his first three games on the top line, but has looked good there, adding a physical presence and standing up for Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Dorsett skipped practice Monday, but is coming off his first three-point game in the NHL and said he’s ready to play Tuesday.
On defense, Vancouver will have its top-four intact for just the fourth game since November, meaning three healthy scratches. But even without an obvious candidate to sit out up front, the Canucks said they view the renewed depth after a season of injuries as a good thing.
“Going down the stretch, it’s going to put a lot of internal competition on our guys and I think that’s great to have as a team,” captain Henrik Sedin said. “If you don’t show up and play good you know there is someone else that wants your spot, that’s great motivation.”
While the Canucks try to figure out who sits out, the Flyers are trying to fill holes and a nine-point gap behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
With center R.J. Umberger already out for the rest of the season with abdominal and hip injuries that require surgery, forward Matt Read left the team after a 2-1 shootout loss against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday and returned to Philadelphia for the birth of his first child.
That means 21-year-old center Nick Cousins will play his first NHL game after being called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League on Saturday night. Cousins said he first read about Read’s departure on Twitter, and after a call from coach Craig Berube to confirm he was playing a short while later, he made arrangements for his parents, brother, and sister to fly in from Toronto.
“Very excited,” Cousins said. “You always remember your first game. Just trying to take it all in. I’m pretty excited and a little nervous right now but I think once I get that first shift under me I will be fine.”
Cousins, a second-year pro, is sixth in AHL scoring with 21 goals and 34 assists in 60 games, and the 5-foot-10 center is set to debut in a third-line roll for the Flyers between Ryan White and Zac Rinaldo.
“Your goal is always to play as far up the lineup as you can,” Cousins said, “You are always going to have doubters. That's what motivates me the most. I’m not trying to complicate thing my first game and try to keep it simple and take it all in and it's going to be fun.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Ryan White - Nick Cousins - Zac Rinaldo
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Carlo Colaiacovo - Luke Schenn
Nicklas Grossmann - Andrew MacDonald
Scratched: Matt Read, Brandon Manning
Injured: R.J. Umberger (abdominal surgery), Michael Del Zotto (upper body), Radko Gudas (knee)
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Zack Kassian
Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins - Brad Richardson - Alexandre Burrows/Derek Dorsett
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Alexander Edler – Christopher Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa - Kevin Bieksa
Scratched: Brandon McMillan, Linden Vey, Adam Clendening, Ryan Stanton, Frank Corrado
Injured: Ryan Miller (knee)
Status report: Raffl is moving back up to the top line with Giroux and Voracek in a swap with Brayden Schenn, who drops to the second line. “With Read out I just wanted to get Raffl some more minutes,” Berube said. “The last few games I haven’t been getting Raffl the minutes I wanted to so he’ll get more minutes up there.” … Del Zotto, who will miss a sixth game with an upper-body injury, skated in Vancouver on Tuesday and could return against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. … The Canucks called Markstrom back up from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League after playing two games over the weekend, stopping 47 of 50 shots in a pair of wins that included one shutout. But the Canucks will continue to start Lack, who is appearing in his 12th consecutive game, at least until back-to-back road games against the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes this weekend.
Who's hot: Horvat has two goals and an assist in his past four games and his right wing Jannik Hansen has 12 points in his past 15 games on the fourth line.