Canucks Game Day: For their next act, Canucks face West's hottest team in Blue Jackets
CANUCKS AT BLUE JACKETS
TODAY, 4 PM, NATIONWIDE ARENA
TV: SPORTSNET. RADIO: TEAM 1040.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Five days ago, the Vancouver Canucks arrived here in Columbus to confront the Blue Jackets, who had the worst record in the NHL's Western Conference. Now the Jackets are the hottest team in the West with five straight victories and points in seven straight.
The Canucks? Well, do you really need to know? They've lost four straight on the road, four straight overall, six of their last seven and nine of their last 12. Coach Alain Vigneault's skaters currently sit sixth in the West standings but, with another pratfall, could find themselves below the playoff bar when the night is over.
That's how dire it has become.
The biggest news from the Canucks' very optional morning skate today is that defenceman Kevin Bieksa still is not ready to go. Bieksa has missed six games with a lingering groin problem and the Canucks have lost all six. He did skate again today for the fourth consecutive day so he does appear to be getting closer.
According to Vigneault, Bieksa talked with athletic trainer Mike Burnstein and team doctor Mike Wilkinson and they then made their decision. Vigneault insisted that Bieksa wasn't rushed back for the March 2 against Los Angeles. Bieksa had sat out two games before that and will now miss his fifth straight today.
“They were cautious,” Vigneault said. “They thought it was fine. Right now, this morning, all I know is they said he's going to need a little more time.”
Even though Bieksa won't be back, it appears Cam Barker will play against the Jackets with Keith Ballard coming out. Chicago Wolves callup Andrew Ebbett is definitely in and will start on a line between Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen.
Ebbett was summoned Monday while rookie Jordan Schroeder went the other way.
“It's good to be back with the guys,” said Ebbett, 30. “Hopefully I can get into it right away. It's been a while since I played a game up here.”
Ebbett's last NHL appearance was Feb. 12, a 2-1 home win over the Minnesota Wild. In five games with the big club this season, he has no points. Ebbett was called up Feb. 28 when Ryan Kesler's broken foot was diagnosed but was returned the next day to the Wolves when the Canucks picked up Tom Sestito and needed his roster spot.
“I've been around for a while and haven't seen something like that,” Ebbett shrugged. “It's part of the business, I guess. I signed up for that when I signed a two-way deal in the summer. You can get ticked off about it or make the best of it and go back down and play. At the end of the day, I just want to play some hockey.”
Ebbett and the rest of the Canucks will face a Blue Jackets team that is brimmng with confidence.
“We have raised some eyebrows,” said Jackets winger R.J. Umberger, the one-time Canuck draft pick. “I think we're scrappy, we work hard and no one is going to take us lightly anymore.”
Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL's 'first star' for the past week, has won four straight and is 6-1-1 in his last eight decisions with a 1.63 GAA and .941 save percentage. He'll obviously start against the Canucks.
“He definitely deserved that,” Columbus head coach Todd Richards said of Bobrobvsky's award. “I know there were some other guys, like Sidney Crosby, who had a big week but watching first hand what Bob was able to do was great for our hockey team. He is making the saves he needs to and making the saves we probably aren't planning on him making. What that does is give everyone else confidence.”
Columbus will welcome back to their lineup centre Brandon Dubinsky, who has missed 11 games with a knee injury. He is one of three different faces the Canucks will see from the Columbus group that prevailed 2-1 in overtime last Thursday. Also in are White Rock's Colton Gillies and Prince George's Nick Drazenovic.
Dubinsky is expected to skate with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson while Ryan Johansen centres for Umberger and Nick Foligno. Derick Brassard will be between Vinny Prospal and Mark Letestu. Gillies and Drazenovic will skate on the fourth line with Jared Boll.
BY THE NUMBERS: Since the NHL is really two 15-team leagues this season, here's how the Canucks stack up in the key team categories among clubs in the West: tied for seventh in goals per game (2.67); eighth in goal against (2.58); 10th on the penalty kill (80.2 per cent) ; 11th on faceoffs (48.5 per cent); and 12th on the power play (15 per cent).
ICE CHIPS: Canuck captain Henrik Sedin has points in seven straight games (4-5-9) and goals in three straight... Ryan Johansen has assists in four straight while Nick Foligno has seven points (1-6-7) in his last seven... Referees for today's game are Wes McCauley and Gord Dwyer.
INJURIES: The Canucks continue to play without Ryan Kesler (foot) and Kevin Bieksa (groin)... The Jackets will be missing C Artem Anisimov (lower body), D James Wisniewski (foot), D John Moore (shoulder), RW Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and C Derek MacKenzie (upper body).
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