VANCOUVER - What you see is usually what you get from Vancouver Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault, unless it's playoffs.
Ask about line combos during the regular season and Regular Season AV is happy to oblige. Now ask the same question during the post-season and you get Playoff AV. He hopes we all understand. The Canucks and San Jose Sharks play Game 1 Wednesday at Rogers Arena.
“As you know,” Vigneault began following practice Monday, “when we get into the playoffs, I don't get into exactly what our lines are.”
Fortunately practice was open to reporters so there was visible evidence. The Sedin twins were with Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler was between Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian while Derek Roy was centring for Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. Max Lapierre was back on the fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise.
There was no other confirmation.
“I'm not going to get into the specifics of what we're going to do, just like I don't do it health-wise,” continued Playoff AV. “I think, at the end of the day, I'm pretty good with you guys. I can give you the Torts in New York (Ranger coach John Tortorella) and not say much. But I do give you a little bit more. I think, considering the fact it is so tight and there is so little separating the teams, you should be able to understand that.
“At this time of year, sharing information about who is playing with who and what we're going to do, is probably not the right things to do.”
A glance at the San Jose lineup seems to indicate a need for Vigneault to play his three natural centres – Henrik Sedin, Kesler and Roy – on separate lines to counter the Shark threesome of Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Roy figures this is the way it will unfold.
“Yeah, I think so,” Roy responded. “San Jose has three good centremen, or four, and a balanced attack. So we're just trying to spread it out and try to make it work that way. It's going to be up to the coaches, obviously, who is going to play against who and what matchups they want but it doesn't matter who I play against. I've played against Pavelski and Couture and those guys and I know how good they are and their play-making abilities.”
Kesler, meanwhile, was less forthcoming on the Wednesday lineup. He wouldn't even concede he'll start at centre.
“I don't know where I'm going to play,” Kesler said coyly. “We'll probably have a bunch of different looks. I don't know what we're going to go with for Game 1. We'll see. That's the way practice shook out today but who knows? Tomorrow might be something different.
“All our lines are pretty dependable so I personally feel confident with every single one of our lines going out there against any one of their lines,” he added. “I'm not saying that they don't have some really good skill. I'm just saying I have faith in every one of the forwards on our team.”
The wild card in the combos deployed Monday is Zack Kassian. The hulking winger hasn't been able to establish any consistency and finished the season with just two goals in his last 32 games. Nonethelss, he thinks he's ready for a prime-time role alongside Kesler.
“First of all, I have no idea if I'll be on that line,” he said. “Nothing is written in stone. You know that. But, yeah, if I do get that opportunity, I'm very excited for it. If I'm playing with those two guys, if it happens, I'll be ready.”
Hansen says he'll be ready, too, and ready to be on a different line by the second period.
“That wouldn't surprise me,” he said, shrugging. “There is no unfamiliarity. I've played with all four centres and I've played with all four left wingers and even some of the right wingers. There has been so much rotation here the last couple of years, that it's no issue.”
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