Canucks won't have Kesler vs. Blues; Sedin likelyby Kevin Woodley
VANCOUVER -- So much for the 2014 Sochi Olympics giving the injury-ravaged Vancouver Canucks time to rest and recover.
Although a couple key players are expected to return against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, none will make up for the loss of second-line center Ryan Kesler, who won't play after injuring his hand in Sochi.
"He's out and day-to-day," coach John Tortorella said shortly before the Canucks skated Wednesday morning, refusing twice to elaborate.
Kesler, who leads the Canucks with 20 goals and NHL forwards in average ice time at 22:12, appeared to get hurt blocking a shot from Ilya Kovalchuk in a preliminary-round game against Russia.
"I saw the shot he took -- one-timer, point blank -- and it was amazing his hand wasn't broken," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who played with Kesler on the United States Olympic team.
Kesler played the final four games for the U.S. after the injury, but had an MRI after returning to Vancouver on Monday. Tortorella wouldn't reveal what Kesler's absence said about those MRI results, but St. Louis center and U.S. teammate David Backes was not surprised Kesler can't play.
"He was pretty swollen in the days after his injury," Backes said. "I watched him and all the rehab he was doing, he was a warrior to keep playing through the injury he had."
Tortorella didn't seem upset Kesler kept playing in Sochi.
"There's no sense being frustrated," he said. "If [Kesler] could play, he'd play. He's played really hard for us this year. It is what it is, and we need to get ready to play the game with the bodies we have."
It appears that will include captain Henrik Sedin, who missed the past two practices to attend to a family matter in Sweden. Sedin, who had a nearly decade-long ironman streak snapped by a rib injury that kept him out of six of the past eight games and the Olympics, was expected back in time to play the Blues.
"As of right now in my mind, yes," Tortorella said.
Defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Yannick Weber are ready after missing the final games before the break, and Christopher Tanev isn't far behind. Forward Alexandre Burrows is expected to play despite injuring his hand in a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel in the game before the Olympics.
But the Canucks will be hard-pressed to snap a seven-game losing skid without Kesler, who plays on the top penalty-killing and power-play units.
"There's not one guy that can replace him," forward Chris Higgins said. "It's going to take a team effort."
At least Vancouver players were able to get away from the franchise's longest regulation losing streak since 1999.
"I haven't given up a goal in two-and-a-half weeks," said Roberto Luongo, who shut out Austria in his only Olympic action before backing up Carey Price through to Canada's gold medal win. "It doesn't matter how tough you are mentally, losing wears on you, so it was good to get away."
Despite that, Luongo won't play against the visiting Blues. Eddie Lack, who won both games against the Blues this season, will start as Luongo recovers from the long trip back from Sochi.
The Central Division-leading Blues will have all nine Olympians back, including four who played in the gold medal game Sunday, but many were still trying to get their bearings after flying from Sochi to St. Louis then to Vancouver a few hours later. The Blues, who had seven players in the medal round, offered their Olympians a day off Tuesday, but many elected to skate.
"Twenty-two hours of travel, so it's been a long couple of days, but went out there to try and get my bearings down and ran into the boards a couple of times, the zones are a little smaller," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said with a chuckle. "Overall, though, I think we're OK. We're all just trying to catch up with some sleep."
At least Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester won't have to adjust to a new defensive partner. Their regular pairing stayed intact throughout the Olympics, helping Canada limit its opposition to three goals in six games.
"There was no feeling-out process," Pietrangelo said. "You play with a guy every shift throughout the year and it feels pretty natural."
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Alexander Steen - Chris Stewart
Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo - Roman Polak
Scratched: Ian Cole, Magnus Paajarvi
Injured: Vladimir Sobotka (knee), Jordan Leopold (ankle)
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins – Jordan Schroeder – Zack Kassian
David Booth – Brad Richardson – Jannik Hansen
Tom Sestito – Kellan Lain – Zac Dalpe
Alexander Edler – Jason Garrison
Scratched: Yannick Weber
Injured: Ryan Kesler (hand), Christopher Tanev (hand), Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery), Andrew Alberts (concussion)