Canucks confident despite Salo sitting out
CHICAGO - If it isn't broke, why fix it?|
That's the approach Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was taking Thursday afternoon when he informed the media at The Peninsula Hotel that top-four defenseman Sami Salo would be sidelined for Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference Semifinal Thursday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?
What does matter is that his team duplicates its marvelous Game 3 performance no matter who is in the lineup by limiting Chicago's scoring chances around the cage and frustrating that potent power play. If that happens and Roberto Luongo continues to play like the All-Star goalie he is, there's a good chance the Canucks will head home for Game 5 with a 3-1 stranglehold in this best-of-7 series.
"I think that they'll want to put a really good game on the ice and we need to put our best game on the ice and I think if we do that, along with having a good puck-pursuit game, we'll be in good shape," Vigneault said. "We want to take away their skill and transition and you do that with good puck management and a good forecheck when the puck is in an area where you can do that, and we're definitely going to try and do that again (on Thursday)."
It's possible that Salo, who was sidelined for Game 3 with a lower-body injury, would be in the lineup if the Canucks were trailing in the series. He skated on his own in Vancouver Tuesday before making the trip to Chicago and working out again Wednesday at United Center.
It's also worth repeating that forward Pavol Demitra has been ruled out for Games 4 and 5 and, if necessary, Game 6 of this series. It has been reported that the 34-year-old Slovakian, who will be reevaluated next week, suffered a concussion in Game 2 of this series. Mason Raymond scored his first career playoff goal in Game 3 after moving up to the second line in the absence of Demitra with Mats Sundin and Ryan Kesler.
Salo, who has 3 goals and 6 points in five postseason games, will again be replaced by Ossi Vaananen, who was paired with Mattias Ohlund on Tuesday.
"We know they're going to be better (on Thursday), so we know we're going to have to be better," Ohlund told NHL.com. "But if we play the right way, we'll be fine."
Salo's usual partner, Willie Mitchell, skated alongside Alex Edler while Kevin Bieksa logged a game-high 27:54 of ice time with Shane O'Brien. There's no denying the fact Salo would provide a solid point-presence on the team's power play, which is hitting at a 25 percent success rate in the playoffs. Instead, Vigneault will lean on the same lineup that generated much success Tuesday.
The Blackhawks’ power play has also been hitting at a 25-percent clip this postseason, having scored seven goals in their 24 man advantages against their opening-round opponent, the Calgary Flames. Against the Canucks, however, Chicago has gone just 4 of 22 (18 percent), including 1 of 5 in Game 3 Tuesday.
The Vancouver penalty-killing unit, incidentally, has allowed only four goals in 40 times short (90 percent) in the playoffs.
"We will continue to play a high-percentage game, playing smart in front of Louie (Luongo)," Canucks forward Alex Burrows said. "Even it's it boring to the fans, I don't really care. Personally, I think that Game 4 usually indicates what's going on and we have to take care of business and have our best game on the ice.
"It'll all come down to who's going to play smart and have the will to really compete and win those battles, but at the same time, we would like to have a similar game as our last one," Burrows continued. "Getting the first goal would be huge for us and playing hard for 60 minutes would also go a long way."
The Canucks have scored the first goal of the game seven straight times against the Blackhawks dating to the regular season, winning four of those matches.