VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - If Manny Malhotra is unable to return from his career-threatening eye injury in time for the Stanley Cup finals, the Vancouver Canucks will have to settle for fresh legs and youthful enthusiasm in his place.
After Malhotra missed practice Tuesday and General Manager Mike Gillis said he hadn't been cleared to play, speedy forward Jeff Tambellini announced the Canucks are likely to use a new fourth-line combination putting him together with center Alexandre Bolduc and big wing Victor Oreskovich.
All three forwards spent time in Manitoba with the Canucks' AHL affiliate this season. Tambellini and Bolduc have only played two playoff games, but they don't seem worried about the size of the Stanley Cup stage.
"It's easier to sleep knowing you can go out there and be a part of it," said Tambellini, a Vancouver native and the son of Edmonton Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini. "(Bolduc) has got a great edge to his game, a lot of bite, and this time if year you need a center with a lot of jam. And when (Oreskovich) is moving and getting in on guys, they don't like to see that big body coming."
With the Sedin twins' line playing big minutes and Ryan Kesler centering a potent second line, the Canucks typically don't rely much on their fourth line. But in a seven-game series against the balanced Bruins, who typically roll four lines consistently each game, depth and energy could turn out to be important for Vancouver.
"It's a good mix," Tambellini said. "We're not all the same player, so hopefully that works, we have a great start and can stay together a while here."
SECOND STARS: Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler fill nearly the same role for their teams as second-line centers and alternate captains who play in every situation and excel on both ends of the rink.
Although they faced off against each other on this same Vancouver ice sheet last year at the Olympics, Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn't anticipate these near-mirror images clashing much in the finals.
"I have a feeling that Kesler is not going to necessarily be looking at Bergeron much, unless it's those big faceoffs at key times," Julien said Tuesday. "Somehow I have the feeling that both coaches will probably look for something else. If it isn't, then so be it."
Julien hinted that Bergeron could spend much of his time chasing twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, hoping to shut down the NHL's most potent scoring combination with help from defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
That likely means Kesler's line will log plenty of time against the Bruins' top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton.
"Patrice has done everything for our team that Kesler has done for his," Julien said. "There's no doubt that you have two players here that are key to their team, guys that you can use in all kinds of situations."
BIG IN FRONT: The Bruins moved defenseman Zdeno Chara to the front of the net in an attempt to fix a struggling power play that has only converted 8.2 percent of its chances in the playoffs.
While it won't be easy for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo to see around the 6-foot-9 screen, he'll be happy if Chara isn't firing away from the point.
"Usually I like to look over a guy's shoulder, so I don't know if that's going to be possible unless maybe I get a ladder in the crease," Luongo said.
Chara set a record at the 2011 All-Star game by winning his fourth straight Hardest Shot competition with a 105.9 mph blast - exactly what Luongo wants to avoid.
"His biggest asset is his shot," Luongo said. "It's right up there with guys like (Nashville's Shea) Weber. Those are guys that can score from pretty much anywhere in the zone, so you don't want to give him any time to unleash that big bomb he has."
THE YOUNGEST BRUIN: Tyler Seguin can scarcely recall the day he was drafted by the Boston Bruins. He's barely had time to take a breath in the year since then.
The 19-year-old rookie is the youngest player on either Stanley Cup finals roster, and he's hoping for an encore of his impressive play in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay after an inconsistent debut season.
"It does seem like a long time ago since the draft," Seguin said. "It's been a great year, a lot of ups and downs, but I feel good."
Seguin was the second overall pick in last June's draft in Los Angeles. He scored 22 points in 74 regular-season games for Boston, but his playing time decreased as the postseason got closer.
He sat out the Bruins' first two playoff rounds as a healthy scratch, but got into the lineup against the Lightning when Patrice Bergeron incurred a mild concussion.
Seguin then scored a goal in his playoff debut and followed it up with two goals and two assists in Game 2. He's still just a depth player for the Bruins, and any impact on the Stanley Cup finals will be a pleasant surprise for Boston - but he thinks this marathon season will serve him well in the future.
"Even if I was tired, I wouldn't say anything," he said. "It's going to be something good to build on."