Canucks Report: Game Day vs. Sharks
Kyle Wellwood debuts for the Sharks tonight against his old team
GAME DAY: CANUCKS VS. SHARKS
By Nolan Kelly
Canucks return Rogers Arena tonight to open up a four game home stand against the San Jose Sharks.
Vancouver has won both meetings against San Jose this season, holding a 24-15-5 advantage over them all time.
Vancouver is 45-11-6 at home since the beginning of last season, giving them a .774 winning percentage, good enough for tops in the NHL.
Coach Vigneault liked what he saw in Colorado on Tuesday and will keep the lineup intact for tonight’s matchup.
Rookies Chris Tanev and Sergei Shirokov will make their home debuts for the Canucks.
The 2009-10 President’s trophy runner up Sharks are in unfamiliar territory this season, sitting three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Sharks are showing signs of waking up from their early season slumber.
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Danny Heatley have been hot of late, combining for 17 points over the past four games, while enigmatic goaltender Antti Niemi registered his second set of back-to-back wins all season last Monday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“They are a tough team to play, I don’t know why they are where they are in the standings, but it’s going to be a tough game to play,” said Henrik Sedin.
The Canucks have tomorrow off before hosting the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
OLD FRIEND, OLD FOE
The Canucks welcome back former teammate Kyle Wellwood and old Blackhawk adversary Ben Eager to Rogers arena tonight. Both will make their season debuts for the Sharks.
Wellwood was picked up on waivers by the Sharks yesterday after St Louis signed him from the KHL last week.
“He was a real effective player for us when it came down the stretch and into the playoffs,” said Alain Vigneault. “He’s an easy guy to coach”.
He is fondly remembered by Canucks fans as a supremely talented player who showed flashes of great skill, despite his diminutive stature.
“He (Wellwood) is the ultimate underdog,” said Kevin Bieksa. “He’s not physically strong but he’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve ever played with”.
In an interesting twist of fate, Wellwood will go head to head against former Sharks third line centre Manny Malhotra, who has taken over his spot on Canucks the 3rd line.
Ben Eager was a thorn in the side of the Canucks, playing in Chicago for the past three seasons. Chicago dealt him to Atlanta this offseason as part of the Dustin Byfuglien trade. Eager was acquired by San Jose for 5th round pick in the 2011 draft. He has three goals and seven assists and 77 penalty minutes in 34 games this year for the Thrashers
Kevin Bieksa, who fought Eager during last year’s playoffs against the Blackhawks, downplayed his return to the Western Conference.
“He’s looking to run around and be physical but if he’s a factor in the game it’s not a good thing for us”.
MANITOBA MOOSE ON CBC THIS SUNDAY
Canucks fans can look forward to watching former first round picks Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder play on national television this Sunday, as the two are expected back from injury just in time for the Moose’s first CBC game of the year
Hodgson has been out since December 8th with a broken orbital bone suffered when he was hit by an errant Lee Sweat high stick during practice.
Hodgson experienced some blurriness during the last month, but has been symptom free for the past week. He’ll wear a full cage when he returns to play.
"Obviously, it's about getting back to game shape now,” said Hodgson. “We've been ramping up the workouts and contact has gone really well, so, hopefully, a couple of more practices. I'd like to get playing as soon as possible."
Schroeder, the Canucks 2009 first round pick went down days after Hodgson, spraining his ankle in a game against the Oklahoma City Barons. His rehab has gone as expected, though he will have to play through some pain.
“I feel great skating up and down and turning and everything, it’s just certain little motions like taking a one-timer off my back foot and with that twisting motion you can really feel it,” said Schroeder.
The game marks the first time the Moose have played a nationally televised game this season.
The Moose play again on CBC February 27th against the Toronto Marlies.