VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Kevin Bieksa is a game-time decision for the Vancouver Canucks after missing the past two with a sore groin, but whether he plays or not, they will have to shake up their roster for Saturday night’s game against the streaking Los Angeles Kings.
Ryan Kesler’s fractured right foot, and his attempt to play through the injury for six games, made sure of that. By the time the results of Kesler’s CT scan were known, the Canucks had placed fourth-line wing Aaron Volpatti on waivers a few hours earlier, losing him to a claim by the Washington Capitals.
That combination led to Vancouver claiming 6-foot-5, 228-pound forward Tom Sestito off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers, and the recall and subsequent demotion back to the American Hockey League of journeyman Andrew Ebbett.
It won’t help a Canucks team struggling to find chemistry and coming off consecutive losses, especially with three natural centers among their 12 healthy forwards.
“It's a challenge right now as far as getting this team’s chemistry to where it needs to be in such a tough conference,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ve got to find ways and do it quickly. You’ve got to be able to play four lines and spread out the minutes.”
Bieksa was trying to juggle the desire to play a Kings team that knocked the Canucks out of the first round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, with knowing Vancouver flies out after to play the Calgary Flames on Sunday, the start of 16 games in March.
“We have the defending Stanley Cup Champions in here tonight and they are usually fun, emotional games, so if there is any chance I can play, I will play,” Bieksa said. ”If I feel good enough to play, I should feel good enough to play back-to-back games. That's why we are taking our time and making the right decision.”
With Chris Tanev the only other defenseman who naturally plays the right side, and ongoing struggles to find the right mix in what should be a good defense corps, Vigneault would welcome Bieksa back with open arms. He liked what he saw in the game-day skate.
“If the morning skate is a reflection of how he'll feel tonight, there’s a good chance he’ll play,” Vigneault said. “Some of our guys find it a little challenging to play that right side for whatever reason, and some are so much better on the left side, it can make it challenging.”
Here’s how the rest of the Canucks lines should look against a Kings team that has won five straight and seven of the past eight, including a rare game at center for speedy wing Mason Raymond:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins – Mason Raymond – Jannik Hansen
David Booth – Maxim Lapierre – Zack Kassian
Tom Sestito – Jordan Schroeder – Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis – ???Jason Garrison
Alexander Edler – Chris Tanev
Keith Ballard – Andrew Alberts or Kevin Bieksa
Injured: Kevin Bieksa (groin, game-time decision), Manny Malhotra (eye, out for season)
Scratched: Cam Barker, Alberts if Beiksa plays