Suspension served, Kassian set to rejoin Canuck lineup; Weber to fill Edler's spot on defence
MONTREAL CANADIENS (2-2-0) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (3-2-0)
TONIGHT, ROGERS ARENA, 7 PM
TV: CBC. RADIO: TEAM 1040
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will welcome power forward Zack Kassian back to their lineup tonight when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena while, at the same time, say goodbye to defenceman Alex Edler for three games.
Kassian has served his eight-game suspension for a pre-season incident in which his reckless high stick shattered the jaw of Edmonton Oiler centre Sam Gagner. Edler, meanwhile, was slapped with a three-game ban after a head check to San Jose Shark winger Tomas Hertl in Thursday's 4-1 Canuck loss.
Edler leads all Canucks in ice time this season, averaging 24:56 per game, so head coach John Tortorella will be forced to re-jig his blueline corps. Ex-Hab Yannick Weber, who had been playing as a fourth-line right winger, will drop back to his normal position on the blueline. Weber was skating with Ryan Stanton on the third pairing at today's morning skate. Chris Tanev was taking line rushes alongside Dan Hamhuis while Jason Garrison was paired with Kevin Bieksa.
“I don't have anything to say about the (Edler) suspension but Webs will play tonight and he'll probably get some power-play time,” said Tortorella.
Weber had no problem playing out of position but welcomed a return to the blueline.
“It wasn't anything I hadn't seen before,” he said. “It's part of the game with injuries and suspensions. Sometimes a guy is asked to sacrifice his position. It wasn't too bad. It's especially nice to be playing against my old team. I have a lot of good friends over there and it will be a special night for me. I look forward to it.”
Based on the morning skate, Kassian will start on the third line with David Booth and Brad Richardson. Dale Weise will drop down a line to skate with Zac Dalpe and Tom Sestito. The top lines remain intact.
“I hope Zack brings us some forechecking,” said Tortorella when asked about having the hulking winger back. “He's a big body and a willing guy. I think it helps us slot some people in other areas so we'll see how it falls out.”
Kassian, needless to say, was happy to return to the active roster. He missed three pre-season games and the first five of the regular season. He hasn't seen live action in three weeks.
“It's been a while,” commented Kassian, 22. “You never want to watch your team play while you're just sitting there. So, yeah, I'm excited. I want to establish myself as a player, I want to have a bigger role on the team and it all starts tonight.”
Meanwhile, Edler met with reporters following the morning skate to discuss his latest suspension. He is a repeat offender after being slapped with a two-game ban last March for steamrolling Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, who was behind his net playing the puck. Edler was also suspended four games internationally last May for a knee-on-knee hit with Canada's Eric Staal. He still has two games remaining on that suspension. They will be applied at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, assuming Edler is on the Swedish team.
“Obviously I'm not happy about being suspended and being away for three games,” Edler said. “You don't want to miss games, especially this early on. My intent is obviously never to hit anyone in the head. I go into a situation being ready for contact and that's what I did. On the ice, it happens fast. But I guess the bottom line is that they want to get rid of everything that makes any contact with the head. It's a good thing they are trying to protect the players but sometimes it happens accidentally. ”
Asked if he needed to change his style, Edler replied: “No. I look at myself as a clean player and I try to play hard. I don't think I need to change the way I play.”
Tonight's goaltending matchup will see the Canucks' Roberto Luongo face the Habs' Carey Price. Habs right winger Brendan Gallagher, the former Vancouver Giant captain, is expected to start on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec while Lars Eller, who had been with Gallagher and Galchenyuk, is likely to centre for Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks enter tonight's game with a 3.14 goals against average, which is 24th in the league. Their penalty killing, however, is the league's best and has not allowed an opposition power-play goal this season in 18 attempts... Vancouver's power play is tied for 23rd at 12.5 per cent and has had just four opportunities in the last three games... The Habs are tied for 10th on the power play (22.2 per cent) and are 18th on the P.K. (79 per cent)... Referees for tonight's game are Tom Kowal and Steve Kozari... The Utica Comets, Vancouver's new American League farm team, lost their first game of the season Friday night, 4-1 to the Rochester Americans, despite out-shooting the Amerks 31-22. Pascal Pelleiter netted the Comets' goal while Joe Cannata took the loss.
INJURIES: The Canucks will again be without RW Alex Burrows (foot) and C Jordan Schroeder (ankle). Schroeder did skate with the team today so he is getting close... The Canadiens will be missing captain Brian Gionta (family illness).
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