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Tambellini could crack Canucks' lineup for Game 2

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Jeff Tambellini didn't find out that he was going to skate on the Vancouver Canucks' fourth line in Tuesday's practice until one of the coaches told him to hop over the boards with Cody Hodgson and Victor Oreskovich.

What does that mean for Tambellini's status for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals? Well, he'll have to wait until after the morning skate Wednesday at Rogers Arena to find that out, but it is a good sign that the smallish yet speedy winger will draw into the lineup in favor of the more physical and plodding Tanner Glass, who played in Game 1.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault even admitted there might be changes for Game 2.

"When you're on the line of course you have to take the expectation that you're going to play," Tambellini said after Vancouver's hard skate at the University of British Columbia. "My mindset now is that I'm going to play and unless that changes I'll adjust accordingly."

Tambellini's only action this postseason was Game 6 in Nashville. He made a remarkable defensive play to stop Martin Erat on a breakaway when the Predators' winger was going in for a potential game-tying goal in the second period.

The size of the Sharks' forwards is likely why Vigneault chose to play both Glass and Oreskovich with Hodgson in Game 1 Sunday, but after seeing how the Canucks were still able to be physical on them maybe now Vigneault is thinking he wants that speed back in his lineup.

Glass played only eight shifts totaling 6:26 of ice time in Game 1. Oreskovich and Hodgson were in the five-minute range.

"Tanner is more a physical presence. Jeff is more speed and skill, good puck management," Vigneault said. "Both bring different components. We'll see what we want to do (Wednesday)."

Tambellini won't let his mind race Tuesday night wondering if he's going to get a chance to play in his first Western Conference Finals game.

"I can't be losing sleep the night before thinking about stuff, that's for sure," he said. "I'm preparing as if I'm going to play, and we'll wait for tomorrow to get the final call."

Samuelsson update?: Mikael Samuelsson, who hasn't played since Game 5 against Nashville, was again absent from the Canucks' practice Tuesday and he hasn't been seen around the team in the last few days. Vigneault was asked about Samuelsson's status and said there would be an update given on him shortly, but as of Tuesday afternoon the team hadn't released anything about the forward.

"We will have an update for you soon on Samuelsson, I'm not sure exactly when," is all Vigneault would say.

It's safe to assume now that Samuelsson at least won't be playing in Game 2, and his status for the rest of the series and playoffs could also be in jeopardy. He suffered what appeared to be some type of lower body injury in Game 5 against Nashville and hasn't played since.

What about Demers?: San Jose defenseman Jason Demers was a surprise scratch for Game 1 as Kent Huskins, who hadn't played since Feb. 19, suited up in his place. Demers did not practice with the Sharks on Tuesday, but coach Todd McLellan was not ruling Demers out of Game 2, instead telling that he will be a gametime decision.

It's possible that Demers skates Wednesday morning at Rogers Arena, "if we have a skate," McLellan said.

Demers played in all 13 games over the first two rounds, scoring 2 goals and dishing out 1 assist. Huskins played nearly 13 minutes in Game 1.

Malhotra in full gear: Injured Canucks center Manny Malhotra (eye) has been a topic of conversation around here lately because he's been skating every day in a sweat suit and wearing a full clear facemask. Well, on Tuesday he was on the ice in full gear for the first time, so naturally there were questions about him and if there is any chance he could return in the postseason.

Vigneault shot those down quickly, saying he has not been cleared for contact and telling reporters "don't go there, we're not discussing that." The coach simply wants Malhotra to be around the team.

"He's been a very important part of our leadership group," Vigneault said. "I want him around the team and he's around the team. It's that simple. We're not going to discuss his physical situation, his eye. All I can tell you is I want him around the team, and that's it."

Malhotra, who played for the Sharks last season, has been important to the players, too.

Maxim Lapierre has said he is leaning on Malhotra for advice in the faceoff circle and Kevin Bieksa said Tuesday that the players ask him questions in between periods and that Malhotra has even been in all of the team meetings.

"For a guy that has been out for a long period of time before, usually there's a disconnect with the players," Bieksa said. "Eventually that happens over time because you're not with the guys in practicing, not traveling with the team. We want (Malhotra) around as much as possible. He makes a lot of contributions in the locker room. He's a great leader for us. He's been there every step of the way. He's giving us great feedback.  He's still a huge part of this team."

The players, though, weren't expecting to see Malhotra in full gear on Tuesday.

"I was surprised," Henrik Sedin said. "It seems like (his injury) happened yesterday. To see him on the ice going full speed, that's fun to watch."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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