Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Canucks Return From All Star Break Ready For Preds

After having a full week off from game action, the Vancouver Canucks have returned to GM Place to prepare for what's sure to be an exciting stretch drive towards the playoffs.

The Canucks entered last week's NHL All Star Break on a six-game winless streak and in a three-way tie with the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks for 6th spot in the Western Conference (51 points). With an overall record of 22-19-7, the Canucks are coming off back-to-back games which saw them earn a point for the efforts, the latest being a 2-1 overtime loss on the road to the San Jose Sharks.

The Canucks are extremely close to being a 100% healthy hockey club returning from the break. Pavol Demitra is the only player not healthy enough to play Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators. The last two days have seen Demitra skate on his own before the rest of the team has practiced together.

Here's how Alain Vigneault has skated his lines and defensive pairings the last two days of practice:

D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Pyatt
Raymond - Sundin - Wellwood
Burrows - Kesler - Bernier
Hordichuk - Johnson - Hansen/Brown

Mitchell - Salo
Ohlund - Bieksa
Edler - O'Brien
Nycholat - Davison


Tuesday's practice had plenty of emphasis on their all-around structure. Lots of time was spent on power plays and 5-on-5 situations. Here's how the power play units looked during practice:


D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Pyatt
Bieksa - Salo


Wellwood - Sundin - Bernier
Ohlund - Edler

Vigneault mentioned after practice that he's not sure if those will be the exact power play units he'll put on the ice tomorrow against the Preds. What makes these units look a bit more interesting is that in the case of the Sedin unit, all forwards are left-handed shooters while Bieksa and Salo are right-handed shots. On Sundin's unit, all the forwards are right-handed shots while the Ohlund-Edler duo shoot left-handed. This could obviously hamper or increase their chances of setting up scoring opportunities either through one-timers from the point or cross-zone passes through the slot.

Both Vigneault and GM Mike Gillis held court with the media this afternoon speaking on a variety of subjects. Gillis shot down theories about the thoughts of firing the coach and he also had some interesting things to say when it came to the financial state of the league and whether or not it will affect how he moves forward with regards to the long-term signings of possibly restricted or unrestricted free agents.

As for the Predators (20-23-3), they're in Vancouver for the fourth and final meeting of the season against the Canucks. Vancouver is 3-0-0 against Nashville, having out-scored their opponents 9-2. In fact, the Predators are winless in their last six games against the Canucks.

The Predators are currently eight points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are the lowest scoring team in the conference (111 goals for) and are a disappointing 3-11-0 against teams in the Northwest Division.

This is how their lines looked during their practice Tuesday afternoon:

J.P. Dumont - Jason Arnott - Steve Sullivan
Ryan Jones - David Legwand - Martin Erat
Joel Ward - Vern Fiddler - Jordin Tootoo
Jarred Smithson - Radek Bonk - Wade Belak/Antti Pihlstrom

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Greg Zanon - Dan Hamhuis
Greg DeVries - Ville Koistinen
Kevin Klein - Alexander Sulzer

Pekka Rinne
Dan Ellis

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