COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Canucks may have been here five days ago, but it feels like they are facing an entirely different team.
When last the Canucks and Blue Jackets met, Vancouver was roasted for losing 2-1 in overtime to the Western Conference’s last-place team.
But that was way back on Thursday. Now, the Jackets are the conference’s hottest team.
Columbus has won five in a row, and has points in each of their past seven games. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was the starter in all five games of the win streak, giving up just seven goals. He is on fire, helping a stingy, committed-to-the-trap defensive team which gave up so few opportunities to the Canucks Thursday, Henrik Sedin said it was like playing against four checking lines.
The Canucks have lost four in a row and nine of 12. They will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is not yet recovered from his groin injury. Originally hurt in February, Bieksa re-aggravated his injury on March 2 when he was hit by Dustin Penner.
“He is going to have another practice but he talked to our doc this morning and he’s going to need another day,” Alain Vigneault said.
“They were cautious (last time). They thought he was fine. Right now, all I know is they said he’s going to need some more time.”
But even without Bieksa coming back, the Canucks will change their lineup.
Andrew Ebbett, recalled from Chicago, will centre a line with Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. Jordan Schroeder, who had been centring the fourth line, was re-assigned to the Chicago Wolves.
Still trying to find another player at centre, the Canucks will go with Chris Higgins this time, between Zack Kassian and David Booth. Max Lapierre will drop to the fourth line, with Dale Weise and Tom Sestito.
Vigneault said he’s also planning to put Cam Barker back in the lineup “for the power play,” which would likely mean Vancouver whipping post Keith Ballard would be a healthy scratch.
Roberto Luongo will get the start after sitting out three straight games. Interesting that it’s now up to Luongo to flip the script on a season that’s going sideways.
“It doesn’t take much (to turn things around),” Luongo said. “Sometimes it takes one bounce. Whatever it is. I remember a few years ago, when we were on our ... eight-game losing streak. We were home against Carolina. We were tied and we took a penalty late in the game, and (Alex Burrows) got a breakaway and scored.
“All of a sudden, we started rolling. I think the main thing is, you don’t get frustrated or discouraged. Try to be as positive as you can, but at the same time, you have to put the work in.”
The Jackets have four power-play goals in their past five games, while the Canucks have four in their past four weeks. A problem for the Canucks has been getting chances, too. They just haven’t been drawing a lot of penalties and only had one against the Jackets on Thursday.
“They’re playing well,” Burrows said. “They’re playing with a lot of speed. They have a lot of guys playing well. Their goalie is playing well. They’ve been really solid and you can see they are buying into the coach’s system.”
The Canucks may have lost here Thursday but are 10-0-2 in their past 12 games against the Jackets.
“It will be a challenge for us, but we know if we play like we can and do the things we know we do well, we’ll be in good shape,” Burrows said.
© Copyright (c) The Province