GAME DAY: TONIGHT, 7 p.m. PDT, Rexall Place VANCOUVER CANUCKS at EDMONTON OILERS
Radio: Team 1040; TV: CBC
EDMONTON — The Vancouver Canucks will rest two of their first-line forwards and three of their top defencemen when they close out the regular season tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.
Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows will sit this one out, as will defencemen Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler.
And captain Henrik Sedin will play only to keep his ironman streak intact. Henrik, who will play his 629th straight game tonight, will skate on a line with Steve Pinizzotto and Dale Weise. But if you blink, you might miss him.
“I would say it’s a safe bet that Hank is not going to play a lot,” a smiling head coach Alain Vigneault said after this morning’s game day skate at Rexall Place.
Asked if he had a nickname for Henrik’s new line, Vigneault laughed and said: “I am going to let you guys figure that one out.”
Roberto Luongo, who will make his second straight start in goal, even got in on the act when he whispered “I am playing right wing tonight” to a reporter before he began his media scrum following today’s skate.
With tonight’s game meaning nothing to the Canucks, Vigneault said it made sense to rest some bodies.
“It is our last game of the year, we are going to go out there and try our best,” Vigneault said. “But for us and anybody getting into the playoffs we all understand that it is a couple of days away here and we want to go in there feeling as healthy we can be at this time of the year.
“We have got quite a few players that have played a lot of minutes, a lot of games in a short time and it’s an opportunity for us, since we have earned the right, to sit a couple of guys out.”
The Canucks have locked up the No. 3 seed in the West and cannot move up or down in the standings.
Luongo said he hopes the Canucks can duplicate the kind of effort the Anaheim Ducks got when they rested several key players and beat Vancouver 3-1 at Rogers Arena on Thursday night.
“We saw it the other night with Anaheim,” he said. “They rested some players and the other guys picked it up and had a really good game so there’s no reason that we can’t do the same.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who has missed the last five games with an undisclosed injury, will play tonight and is happy to get one game in before the playoffs begin next week.
“It’s nice to get in one game before the intensity and stakes pick up,” Bieksa said. “The group we have going here tonight are very focused on putting together a good game and not just going through the motions. These games are tough for some guys, but we have to go out, we have to perform and play good and feel good about ourselves.”
The Canucks are leaving their second, third and fourth lines together. That means Ryan Kesler will skate on the wing again with Derek Roy and Chris Higgins.
“I am just looking for hard work,” Vigneault said. “Derek’s line is still intact, they have an opportunity to get a little more chemistry, we kept Max’s line intact and Ebbett’s line intact, so all those guys can go out there and get more ice time tonight obviously because Hank’s line is not there.”
The Oilers, who upset the Minnesota Wild 6-1 in St. Paul on Friday night, did not skate this morning. That win was only the second in the last 11 games for the Oilers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oilers: Winger Taylor Hall had a goal and two assists in Friday night’s win in Minnesota. He leads Edmonton with 48 points and is inside the top 20 in NHL scoring.
Canucks: This could be Roberto Luongo’s last start as a Canuck. He does not want to finish the season with two straight losses.
The Oilers are missing C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), C Lennart Petrell (leg) and D Andy Sutton (knee). D Ryan Whitney ((leg), D Theo Peckham (flu) and winger Ales Hemsy (foot) are questionable.
The Canucks are without goalie Cory Schneider (undisclosed), winger David Booth (foot) and D Chris Tanev (foot).
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks and Oilers have split their four meetings this season. . .The Canucks won’t know their first-round opponent until after tonight’s game. It seems likely they will meet the loser of tonight’s game between San Jose and Los Angeles. That game starts 30 minutes later than the Canucks-Oilers-game.