Canucks callup Sven Baertschi to start, Ryan Miller likely

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was keeping his cards close to his chest at the team's practice on Wednesday.
 

Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was keeping his cards close to his chest at the team's practice on Wednesday.

Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, PNG

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VANCOUVER — With his team facing playoff elimination, Vancouver Canuck head coach Willie Desjardins was both coy and candid Wednesday in discussing his lineup for Thursday’s last-chance home date against the Calgary Flames.

Desjardins did concede that Utica Comets callup Sven Baertschi, an ex-Flame, would almost certainly play and that injured winger Alex Burrows would not. Burrows is gone for the series, said the coach, although he wouldn’t confirm Burrows had a fractured rib.

Desjardins also said he has decided on his starting goalie but wouldn’t disclose the information, opting to let it to come out at Thursday’s morning skate. A report later surfaced saying it would be Ryan Miller. The Canucks trail the best-of-seven series 3-1.

Miller, for his part, admitted he still was not 100 per cent recovered from a sprained knee suffered Feb. 22 against the New York Islanders. Miller has played five periods since then, including the final two of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Flames. Miller not did allow a goal in the 40-minute stint and stopped 15 shots.

Eddie Lack is 1-3 in the series with a 3.03 goals against average and .886 save percentage in his first NHL playoffs. Miller has a playoff career mark of 27-26. He is also the $6-million man, signed for big bucks to make a difference.

Asked about his knee following Wednesday’s practice, Miller didn’t attempt to sugar-coat the situation.

“I mean, it’s coming,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something where physically it’s going to be there this year but I think you can make up for that kind of stuff with your approach and your mentality. So, in my case, if it’s going to be a chance for me to play, it’s going to be about battling and competing and kind of willing the puck to stay out of the net.

“I’m not going to be 100 per cent physically but I know I can bring a lot with my approach and try to be efficient out there and contribute to managing our zone.”

Lack, who carried the Canucks into the playoffs, was more subdued than usual Wednesday, perhaps an indication he knew what was coming.

“I mean, obviously I want to play and I felt good playing at home, too, but it’s not up to me,” Lack said. “Whatever the coach’s decision is going to be, I’m going to be behind it 100 per cent.”

Baertschi, meanwhile, had probably the biggest smile in a mostly grim-faced Canuck room Wednesday. He skated at practice on the team’s second line with Nick Bonino and Radim Vrbata. He scored two goals on that line in Game 82 of the regular season, a mean-nothing 6-5 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers.

Baertschi, 22, has never appeared in an NHL playoff game. But he has dressed for 69 in the regular season, 66 of those with the Flames who selected him 13th overall in the 2011 entry draft.

“Well, I think anybody who gets traded to a different team, or switches teams, it’s always good to come back and play against the old teammates,” Baertschi said. “So it’s something really special and something really unique, especially in the playoffs. I know it’s an important game but I’m not going to put that extra pressure on myself. I just want to play the way I can play and that’s create something offensively and be solid defensively.

“I’m going to try and leave it all out there,” he continued. “Coming here now, it’s the best time of the season. We’re in a spot where we have to come back and I think sometimes it’s a little bit tough but it’s also something exciting. It’s what you play for.”

The Canucks may also have a new look elsewhere in the lineup Thursday as Shawn Matthias, a left winger most of the season, practised at centre between Chris Higgins and Brandon McMillan. Jannik Hansen remained with the Sedin twins in Burrows’s normal spot while Bo Horvat skated between Ronalds Kenins and Derek Dorsett. Linden Vey was the extra.

“I can’t remember the last time I played centre but I’ve played centre my whole life so it should come naturally to me, I would think,” commented Matthias. “I’m looking forward to it, yeah, for sure.”

THE STARTING 5 – THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR GAME 5

THE COMEBACKS

It may be time for Canuck president Trevor Linden to address the troops. The Canucks have come back from a 3-1 series deficit three times in their history and Linden was a player on all three of those teams: against Winnipeg in 1992 with Games 5 and 7 at home; against Calgary in 1994 with Game 5 and 7 on the road; and in 2003 against St. Louis with Games 5 and 7 at home.

PLAYOFF FLOOR MATS

In their last 15 playoff games, the Canucks have won just twice. They beat the eventual Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings 3-1 in Game 4 of the 2012 first round and the Flames in Game 2 of this series. In the 15 games, they have been outscored 46-26, have scored more than three goals just once and been shut out twice. They have given up four or more goals seven times.

BLUELINE BREAKDOWN

Luca Sbisa has been on the ice for four of the Flames’ six even-strength goals in the series while Kevin Bieksa and Yannick Weber have been on for three apiece and Dan Hamhuis two… Sbisa and Bieksa have also been on for two of the Flames’ four power-play goals… Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, the Canucks’ shutdown duo, have not been on for an even-strength goal against.

BY THE NUMBERS

Radim Vrbata, the Canucks’ leading goal scorer during the regular season, has 22 shot attempts in the series but just one empty-net goal… In four games, the Canucks have directed 252 shots at the Calgary net, with 116 getting through, 94 getting blocked and 42 missing. … Vancouver has played with the lead for 72:55 of the series while Calgary has played with it for 103:55.

QUOTABLE

“I don’t think you get in the playoffs and leave teams like the San Jose Sharks and L.A. Kings outside if you’re not good. I mean, you can surprise people for a week or two but not over 82 games. This is how good they are. There is no question about it.” – Canuck captain Henrik Sedin on the so-far formidable Flames.

epap@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/elliottpap

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was keeping his cards close to his chest at the team's practice on Wednesday.
 

Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was keeping his cards close to his chest at the team's practice on Wednesday.

Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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