Daniel takes the ice before the Canucks practice today.
Image via David Ebner.
Canucks Army doesn’t have access. But with the playoffs beginning this week, we’ll occasionally do our best to round up beat-writer’s practice tweets and try to keep you posted on what’s going on in a digestible format. Today is the first such installment.
Today, Daniel Sedin openly took to the ice for the first time since he was injured by the cheapest of cheap shots on March 21st in a game against the Blackhawks. Today he was out on the ice working with the Canucks skill-coach (along with Booth, Kesler and Ballard), while wearing a blue-helmet (which, for the Canucks, usually means "cleared for contact"), and has joined the club for the full team practice.
Recently injured depth players Zack Kassian, Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome also joined the Canucks for practice. This means that, fingers crossed, Alain Vigneault could have a full deck in-play for Wednesday’s playoff opener against the Los Angeles Kings.
More after the jump.
While no team has all of their players feeling 100% at this time of year, the return of the club’s leading scorer, Daniel Sedin, is excellent news for the Canucks. The return of depth defenseman Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome to action could become important as well, especially when you consider this franchise’s record for going through defenseman. Zack Kassian’s return to the lineup meanwhile, gives Vigneault plenty of fourth line options to stew over. Which one of Ebbett, Weise, Kassian or Bitz will get the start alongside Lapierre and Malhotra on Wednesday? My money is on Bitz (because of the Kyle Clifford factor), but regardless, that’s an embarrassment of depth-forward riches.
As Kristin Reid suggested earlier today, if Daniel is able to get in two full team practices symptom free – he’ll set the stage for a Wednesday return to the lineup. Concussions, however, are tricky and unpredictable. Symptoms could recur at any moment during practice over the next couple of days. So while it’s great to see Daniel back on the ice, and one assumes (knowing how the twins have a total hatred of missing games) he’ll do everything in his power to play on Wednesday, let’s hope the club and player err on the side of caution.
Still, that all of the team’s injured players have joined in the full-team practice today is serious cause for optimism. While, For the guys recovering from head injuries (Daniel and Ballard), that optimism should be tinged with due caution, the return of the Canucks roster to full-health couldn’t come at a better moment. After all, the games start to really count on Wednesday night.
Update 11:16 AM PST – Looks like my Bitz-Lapierre-Malhotra prediction may have been a good one. According to Farhan Lalji, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Zack Kassian, Dale Weise and Andrew Ebbett are all sporting "grey" jerseys. Nothing official, but that could indicate that they’re "extras" for game one.
Update 11:29 AM PST – Ben Kuzma has Vigneault rolling the following lines at practice Daniel-Henrik-Burrows, Raymond-Kesler-Booth, Hansen-Pahlsson-Higgins and Malhotra-Lapierre-Bitz.
On defense (again via Kuz), the Canucks so far appear to be going with: Edler-Bieksa, Hamhuis-Tanev and Rome-Salo with Ballard as the 7th man.
On the power-play the first unit, according to Hosea appears to be Kesler with the twins and Salo-Edler manning the points. The second unit according to Batchelor looks like it’ll be: Burrows-Higgins-Booth with Bieksa and Hamhuis along the blueline.
Update 11:38 AM PST – According to Helene Elliott, the Kings practice lines are looking like, 1st line: Dustin Brown with Kopitar and Williams; 2nd line: Dwight King with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (Brad Richardson is listed as an alternate here, since Carter hasn’t played in five games, but did skate today). The Kings are sticking with their usual third line: Dustin Penner with Jarred Stoll and Lewis, and have a banger fourth line going in Clifford, Fraser and Nolan (Westgarth is skating as an alternate). I’d expect that Nolan is the King who would come out of the lineup if Carter is ready to go on Wednesday.
Along the blueline (again via Helene) the Kings are going with two righties on their top pairing in Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty. Martinez and Greene are their usual third pairing while Willie Mitchell (and his long reach) is skating with Voynov on the team’s likely second pairing.
Update 12:09 PM PST – Kevin Woodley reports that Daniel Sedin (despite huffing and puffing somewhat towards the end of practice) skated hard throughout. To quote Woodely "given concussion protocol, no way this is first exercise." Guess Daniel was, probably, skating in secret after all!
Meanwhile the Canucks ended practice with a series of sprint skates after working on "5on4s, 6on5s and 5on5s" in a "zippy hour of practice" according to the Globe and Mail’s David Ebner.
The practice itself looks to have been absurdly well covered (considering the postseason doesn’t even start until Wednesday). Here’s Gordon Macintyre with the amusing "media-frenzy" photo:
Update 12:13 PM PST – Henrik Sedin on Daniel’s status – "he’s 100%." That said, Henrik declined to confirm whether or not Daniel would be in the lineup on Wedneday. As we said at the start of this live-blog: his return to the ice is cause for cautious optimism, but nothing more. At least not yet.