EDMONTON - There are two explanations for the lineup Alain Vigneault chose to play in the last game of the Vancouver Canucks’ regular season.
One, the Canucks battled hard all season and, by clinching the Northwest Division title, earned the right to rest some of their key regulars before the start of the playoffs.
Two, Vigneault has a whacky sense of humour.
“(Henrik Sedin) is going to start with Dale Weise and Steve Pinizzotto,” Vigneault said at the morning skate as the Canucks prepared to meet the Edmonton Oilers.
He was asked if that line has a nickname yet.
“I’ll let you guys figure that out,” Vigneault answered.
Actually, the scribes in attendance were doing a lot of figuring as they contemplated the Canucks’ team that will meet the Oilers. Henrik Sedin started as the fourth-line center, presumably to keep his iron-man streak alive, but that was hardly the only change for the Canucks. His brother Daniel and regular linemate Alex Burrows drew press-box duty. They were joined by regular defencemen Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison.
The good news? The Canucks’ other forward lines remained intact. The interesting news? The defensive corps featured Kevin Bieksa, returning after five games from an injury, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Derek Joslin, Frank Corrado and Cam Barker.
“For us, the playoffs are a couple of days away and we want to go into them feeling as healthy as we can,” said Vigneault. “We’ve got quite a few players who’ve played a lot of games and a lot of minutes in a short time. Since we’ve earned the right, it’s an opportunity for us to sit a few guys out.”
Said Bieksa: “We’re going to be focused on putting together a good game and not just going through the motions. I know these games are tough for some guys but we have to go out and perform.”
At least the Canucks’ forward lines will have a familiar look. Derek Roy will again center Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins while Max Lapierre will play between Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. The new third line/formerly fourth line will consist of Andrew Ebbett, Zack Kassian and Tom Sestito.
Then there’s the Legion of Doom II with Henrik between Weise and Pinizzotto.
“I’m just looking for hard work,” said Vigneault.