Just one week into the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks make their first foray to southern California for a quick two-game road trip. They face the Anaheim Ducks tonight.
Game Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Sportsnet Vancouver
The Canucks dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. In a role reversal from the Wednesday night season opener for both clubs, the Flames were the faster and more aggressive team.
The Canucks will need to find their legs to keep up with a fast and aggressive Ducks team looking for their first win of the season. Anaheim dropped their season opener, 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks.
After a heartbreaking loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals last season, the Ducks made some significant roster changes, adding forwards Carl Hagelin, Shawn Horcoff, and Chris Stewart.
Oh yeah…and a certain defenceman.
1. Hello, Kevin
The Kevin Bieksa scrum. pic.twitter.com/RpvwalOt9g
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) October 12, 2015
Duck defenceman Kevin Bieksa faces his former team for this time tonight. Bieksa played 597 regular season games and 71 playoff games over 10 years for the Canucks and was a prominent part of the team’s efforts in the community.
Bieksa has already won over his new teammates. Corey Perry told the LA Times, “”It’s better when he’s on your team than going up and getting punched in the face 100 times in a game when he’s on the other team. He’s a battler, a competitor, and goes out there and wants to win, and you can see it.”
If you think it will be strange for Canucks fans to see Bieksa in a Ducks’ jersey, imagine what it will be like for the players.
“It’ll be maybe a little weird seeing him in that jersey,” Burrows told TSN 1040’s Jeff Paterson. “He was a great friend and a better teammate. I’ll try to get in a battle with him in front of the net or in the corner somewhere. It’ll be fun to play.”
Look for Bieksa to get into a few scrums and shoving matches with his ex-teammates. It should be fun to watch.
2. Does Virtanen draw in?
— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) October 12, 2015
Rookie Jake Virtanen did not draw into the lineup in the Canucks’ first two games against the Flames. It was understandable that coach Willie Desjardins didn’t make any lineup changes between games after the Canucks win on opening night.
With the loss on Saturday night, the timing is right for Virtanen to draw into the lineup. He has been itching to play, and his big body and physical play will be just what the Canucks need in their games against both the Ducks and Kings.
If Virtanen gets in, then someone will need to come out. My guess would be either Brandon Prust or Sven Baertschi.
Prust had a poor game on Saturday night and was ineffective on the fourth line. One could see Virtanen naturally sliding into that fourth-line winger slot.
Despite notching an assist on Saturday night, Baertschi was quite invisible and wound up with only 13 minutes of ice time. Virtanen could play on the third line and bump Burrows up to the second line with Horvat and Vrbata.
3. Come back, Alex
Coach Desjardins says Miller was given the day off after 2 good performances. Edler is feeling better & will travel. pic.twitter.com/jJddU0dKfS
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) October 11, 2015
Canucks defenceman Alex Edler was a late scratch for Saturday night’s game and it threw the d-pairings for a loop.
None of the pairings looked particularly strong, and they were changing throughout the game. By the third period, Chris Tanev was playing with rookie Ben Hutton, and Yannick Weber was with Luca Sbisa. The pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Matt Bartkowski struggled the most, including a collision with each other that led to the game-tying goal by the Flames.
Arguably the Canucks’ number one d-man, with Edler out the trickle-down effect is obvious.
Bottom line, the Canucks need Edler in the lineup.
Although he didn’t practice on Sunday in Vancouver, Edler has made the trip with the team.
After a day off, Ryan Miller will get the start in goal, while Jake Virtanen looks to draw into the lineup. On defence, it will all depend on Alex Edler’s health. Chris Higgins remains out with an injury.
The Canucks held an optional practice this morning, so we may not know the line combinations until game time.
*Update: It appears that Jake Virtanen will not make his debut tonight.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Sutter|
It’s the home opener for the Ducks, so there will be an extra element of pomp and circumstance before tonight’s game. Perhaps it could lead to a sluggish start for the home team.
I boldly predict that rookie Jake Virtanen will make an impact on the game (whether it be via a goal, fight, or big bodycheck) and that the Canucks will earn a hard-fought 3-2 win.
I also predict a “Kevin Bieksa hat trick”: a hit, a scowl and a smirk.