Playoff Game Day: Lack starts, Richardson in as Canucks and Flames ready to rumble

 

 
 
 
 
Netminder Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks will be in the spotlight Wednesday night when he starts his first NHL playoff game against the visiting Calgary Flames.
 

Netminder Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks will be in the spotlight Wednesday night when he starts his first NHL playoff game against the visiting Calgary Flames.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, two underdog teams counted out of the playoffs before the season began, will renew an old rivalry tonight (7 p.m., PT, on CBC, TSN 1040).

The Canucks and Flames have met six previous times in the Stanley Cup tournament but haven't faced off against one another since 2004 when Martin Gelinas scored in overtime in Game 7 to send the Flames to victory. It was the last time the Flames advanced beyond the first round. Their last appearance in the playoffs was six seasons ago.

The Canucks, meanwhile, lost in the first round in both 2012 and 2013 before missing the post-season altogether last season. They have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. They have also lost six straight playoff games at home.

Goaltender Eddie Lack will be entrusted with the task of ending the Canucks' recent playoff futility. Although it was apparent for some time that Lack would be the Game 1 starter, head coach Willie Desjardins finally announced it this morning. Lack said he was told Monday.

"It's obviously something I've been looking forward to for a while now," Lack told reporters following the Canucks' optional morning skate. "My dad is here, too, to experience it with me so it's going to be fun. I've been trying to prepare as I have all season. Obviously everyone is starting from zero now and it's the first to four games and — you know what? — I feel the excitement in the room. Everyone is ready to go."

Desjardins admitted that Ryan Miller, who missed seven weeks with a sprained knee before playing Saturday, is still a bit too rusty.

"Ryan just hasn't been in enough," explained the Canucks’ coach. "It was tough for him to come back for that one game. That's not fair to put him in that situation where he hasn't had a good chunk of time to get ready. For sure he can get more ready through practice. Eddie played well for us in pressure situations down the stretch and I would expect him to be good tonight."

The Canucks will welcome checking centre Brad Richardson back into their lineup. He'll start between wingers Shawn Matthias and Derek Dorsett, relegating Linden Vey to the press box. Richardson missed 37 of the last 39 game with a wonky ankle. His last appearance in a game was March 17 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Desjardins was understandably pleased to have Richardson available.

"Brad looked good the last couple of days in practice," said Desjardins. "He's a player who will battle and a player with good speed. It would be great for us to get him back. We missed him. He brings a lot of different things to our game. Emotionally, he's really involved and he brings up the intensity. He can play against the other team's top lines. He's just a good player for us."

Canucks captain Henrik Sedin will appear in his 100th playoff game tonight, which is second all-time in franchise history behind only Trevor Linden's 118.

"No, I don't think it gets old," Henrik said. "This is what you play for, especially missing the playoffs last year. It makes it even more special, I think."

The Canucks' optional skate featured Lack and Miller, along with defencemen Luca Sbisa and Ryan Stanton, and forwards Matthias, Vey, Bo Horvat, Ronalds Kenins and Brandon McMillan. Stanton, Vey and McMillan are expected to be the healthy scratches.

The Canucks will almost certainly start with these lines tonight: Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows; Chris Higgins-Nick Bonino-Radim Vrbata; Matthias-Richardson-Dorsett; and Kenins-Horvat-Jannik Hansen.

On defence, it will be the usual pairings of Alex Edler-Chris Tanev, Dan Hamhuis-Yannick Weber and Sbisa-Kevin Bieksa.

Flames coach Bob Hartley, who is expected to scratch ex-Canuck Mason Raymond tonight, has told his team to enjoy the moment.

"Our message, especially to our young players, is that we earned this right to be in the playoffs by working since Day 1 of training camp, at practices, in gym workouts, playing 82 games and facing adversity," Hartley said. "So let's enjoy it. Tonight, everyone is on the starting line for a Stanley Cup. This is the dream of any kid, whether they're in minor hockey, or playing on the pond or the street. That's our mindset. Let's go and enjoy it. Let's have fun. We had a mountain to climb and we're still not at the top. We still have lots of work to do. Right now, this is the most fun time of the season. This is the NHL playoffs and we want to have fun with it."

The Flames expect to line up this way: Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler; Sam Bennett-Mikael Backlund-Joe Colborne; Michael Ferland-Matt Stajan-David Jones; and Brandon Bollig-Mark Granlund-Josh Jooris.

On defence, the expected pairings are: Kris Russell-Dennis Wideman; T.J. Brodie-Deryk Engelland; and David Schlemko-Corey Potter.

Jonas Hiller will face Lack in the goaltending matchup.

ICE CHIPS: The Canucks will carry the league's eighth best power play into tonight's game (19.3 per cent) and the second best penalty kill (85.7 per cent) … The Flames finished the regular season 13th on the power play (18.8 per cent) and 20th on the P.K. (80.6 per cent) … Referees tonight are Chris Lee and Brad Watson.

INJURIES: The Canucks will be without RW Zack Kassian (back) … The Flames will be missing D Mark Giordano (biceps), D Ladislav Smid (neck), LW Lance Bouma (hand) and D Raphael Diaz (knee).

epap@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/elliottpap

 
 
 
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Netminder Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks will be in the spotlight Wednesday night when he starts his first NHL playoff game against the visiting Calgary Flames.
 

Netminder Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks will be in the spotlight Wednesday night when he starts his first NHL playoff game against the visiting Calgary Flames.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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