SHARKS (27-18-7) at CANUCKS (28-18-3)
TV: CSN-CA, SNP
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks had so many defensemen Saturday that coach Willie Desjardins held a meeting with them to make sure each one knew they were still an important part of the team.
Five days later, the Canucks are down the minimum six on defense.
Top-pairing defenseman Christopher Tanev will not play against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday because of an undisclosed injury and fellow right-shot defenseman Frank Corrado will miss a second game with what was originally described as an illness. That means Yannick Weber, who was relegated to the press box when the Canucks acquired Adam Clendening from the Chicago Blackhawks last week, will be on the top pair for an important game against the Sharks.
Tanev took a couple of big hits during a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday but managed to finish the game.
"I don't think there is anything long term," Desjardins said.
In the short term it leaves the Canucks without their second-best defenseman when they try to catch the Sharks, who are tied with the Calgary Flames two points ahead of Vancouver for third place in the Pacific Division. San Jose, coming off a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Wednesday, won't have to face Tanev, who is third in Canucks average ice time at 21:01.
"It's a big challenge," Desjardins said.
The Canucks are already missing top-four defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who broke his hand blocking a shot before the All-Star break. Tanev will be especially missed on a penalty kill that has slid from top of the NHL to fourth while giving up five goals in the past four games.
"The challenge is those guys play big roles, play big minutes, carry a lot of responsibility so when you miss those guys other guys have to step up collectively," defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "When things like this happen I think it gets all the other guys closer. It's a challenge. It's adversity because you know those guys are key contributors."
Bieksa, Corrado and Tanev are all also right shots, meaning Sbisa, a left shot, moves back to his off side on the right of Dan Hamhuis.
"We're running out of options on the right side," Sbisa said.
The Canucks were almost run out of their own building by the fast, physical Jets on Tuesday, but responded well to a lot of early hitting by playing a more physical style themselves. The key now, said Sbisa, is not waiting for the other team to initiate that energy.
"It was good they came at us like they did because it was a wake-up call," Sbisa said. "If we don't react and match their intensity we get run out of the building. Moving forward you got to know you can do it but you can't wait for someone else to switch the 'on' button."
Here are the projected lineups:
Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl – James Sheppard – Barclay Goodrow
John Scott – Chris Tierney – Tyler Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Matt Tennyson
Matt Irwin – Scott Hannan
Scratched: Mirco Mueller, Daniil Tarasov, Andrew Desjardins
Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mike Brown (lower body), Tommy Wingels (hand), Justin Braun (hand), Tyer McGinn (upper body)
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Radim Vrbata
Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Jannik Hansen
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Derek Dorsett
Alexander Edler - Yannick Weber
Dan Hamhuis - Luca Sbisa
Ryan Stanton - Adam Clendening
Scratched: Zack Kassian
Injured: Christopher Tanev (undisclosed), Frank Corrado (illness), Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (lower body)
Status report: Only a handful of Sharks skated on Thursday morning, but they included forwards Mueller, Tarasov and Desjardins, who will all likely be scratched while Tierney continues to center the fourth line. Goalie Antti Niemi, who is 5-0-2 in his past seven starts, is expected to play after Alex Stalock started in Calgary.
Who's hot: Kenins has scored in two straight games after being blanked in his NHL debut, including the tying goal in the third period against the Jets on Tuesday. … Thornton was blanked in Calgary on Wednesday but had two goals and eight assists in his prior six games.