According to Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province, Manny Malhotra will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his Canucks career tonight when Vancouver takes on Chicago at the United Center.
Malhotra, an excellent shut-down player last season, suffered a serious eye injury a year ago and missed much of his summer training due to several surgical procedures on the eye.
He’s struggled to regain last season’s high level, but has still been good in the face-off circle. He’s fifth in the NHL in face-off winning percentage, at 58.2 per cent. On Monday in Minnesota, Malhotra was three for six, all in the defensive zone, and lost a draw to Kyle Brodziak on a Wild power play just prior to Erik Christensen’s opening goal.
Malhotra said he was fine physically. “They’re just trying different things, giving guys some looks,” he said.
There are a few ways of looking at this lineup decision:
1) It was simply Malhotra’s turn, just like it was Mason Raymond’s turn on Tuesday. Raymond was a healthy scratch in Vancouver’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota — the first time in three years he’d been a healthy scratch — after going pointless in eight games, frustrating head coach Alain Vigneault.
2) This isn’t actually Malhotra’s first healthy scratch. Malhotra was held out of the lineup last week against Columbus and Phoenix for “personal reasons”, believed to be in relation to the one-year anniversary of his eye injury.
We say ‘believed’ because Malhotra wouldn’t discuss the situation.
“There’s no need to elaborate,” he said of his absence. “Things are fine and I’m ready to get back to work. I feel good. I’m ready to go.”
It’s possible Vancouver held Malhotra out of the lineup under the guise of “personal reasons” to prevent publicly embarrassing one of its alternate captains. Of course, this conspiracy theory is ripe for hole-poking. Why would they keep from embarrassing him then, only to embarrass him a week later?
And really, how tumultuous would scratching an alternate captain be? Dale Hunter’s benched Mike Knuble a whole bunch of times, and those two seem to get along great.