Healthy Canucks make for ‘really tough’ lineup decisions


All of a sudden the Vancouver Canucks have a numbers problem.

With 24 healthy skaters (15 forwards and nine d-men) available for tonight’s home game versus the Flyers, coach Willie Desjardins is being forced to make some tough decisions.

“It’s really tough and that’s one of the strengths of our team right now and it’s kind of how we handle it,” Desjardins said yesterday, per The Province.

“It doesn’t matter who comes out, it’s going to be questioned because whoever I take out doesn’t deserve to come out. They’re all good players. If I say this guy is coming out, people will say: ‘Why him?'”

As of this afternoon, there was no word which forward would come out to make way for the expected return of Alex Burrows. Candidates include wingers Ronalds Kenins, Derek Dorsett, and Zack Kassian.


— Kenins provides a ton of energy and has developed some real chemistry in a bottom-six role with fellow rookie Bo Horvat.
— Dorsett, another bottom-six energy player, just had a 3-point night Saturday versus the Leafs.
— Kassian has been skating on the first line with the Sedins, and has five goals in his last 10 games.

For Desjardins, it’s one of those good problems to have.

“It could work for veterans, they could get a day’s rest and that could help because we have to give ourselves the best chance to win,” he said.

Edler, Burrows, and Kassian expected back for Canucks, who ‘better be’ ready for Coyotes


The Vancouver Canucks, fresh off a 6-2 home loss to San Jose, are expected to get some reinforcements tonight when they take on the struggling Coyotes in Arizona.

Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, and Zack Kassian all took the game-day skate and appear likely to suit up.

Edler, the team’s top defenseman, hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 14; Burrows has missed the last six games with a groin injury; and Kassian sat out the Sharks game with stomach flu.

The Canucks, with a mere three-point playoff cushion, know they need to take advantage of a Coyotes team that’s lost 10 straight in regulation.

“We only have 19 games left and we have to be winning and getting points,” said forward Radim Vrbata, per the Vancouver Sun. “From my experience in the Western Conference with Phoenix the last couple of years — we missed the playoffs by two points last year, we missed by four points the year before that – every point is important. If it’s a shootout loss, or a shootout win, it makes a difference. It doesn’t matter who it’s against.

“We have to be ready for the Coyotes. We better be. Those are points that we need.”

The last time the Canucks played on the road, they lost 6-3 to the worst team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres.

Kassian sits out Tuesday’s Canucks game with flu


The Vancouver Canucks will have to face the San Jose Sharks without winger Zack Kassian on Tuesday, as the team announced that he’s suffering from the flu.

The 24-year-old has been on a nice run riding shotgun with the Sedin twins. Seven of his nine goals from 2014-15 came in the month of February alone.

This is a fairly significant game for the Canucks, too, as the Sharks aren’t that far behind them in the West’s run for playoff spots. Vancouver looks relatively safe with 75 points (good for second in the Pacific at the moment), yet 10th-ranked San Jose is only five points behind them.

(The Canucks have two games in hand, so the gap is still notable, but still.)

It’ll be interesting to see if Vancouver puts Radim Vrbata back with the Sedins in Kassian’s absence or if they go with a different option tonight.

All of a sudden Zack Kassian can’t miss


Six days ago, Zack Kassian was made a healthy scratch for the ninth time this season and it seemed a foregone conclusion he was not long for Vancouver, assuming Canucks GM Jim Benning could ferret out some semblance of a return in a trade.

Yada, yada, yada, Kassian scored his fourth goal in three games last night in Boston, helping the Canucks to a 2-1 victory over the Bruins.

Such is the random game of hockey.

“I came in when [Alex Burrows] got hurt and got a lucky bounce (Friday in New Jersey) and kind of just took off from there,” Kassian said, per the Vancouver Sun. “I just want to keep working and help this team any way I can.”

How much has luck turned in his favor?

Well, his last four goals have come on just seven shots, and his seven goals in February have come on just 13 shots. With Burrows out, he’s also found himself on a line with the Sedin twins. (Which, yes, may help explain some of his recent shooting success. Not all of it though.)

Prior to February, Kassian had just two goals on 33 shots and had spent most of his playing time with the likes of Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias.

Now, to be sure, Kassian’s future with the Canucks remains far from certain. Coach Willie Desjardins still doesn’t trust the 24-year-old winger defensively, as evidenced last night by the two quick shifts Kassian received after scoring the winning goal at 6:47 of the third.

Benning could still pull the trigger on a trade prior to Monday. But this recent hot streak has certainly added another dimension to the story.

Last night’s goal, by the way, was Kassian’s only shot of the game.

Related: Frustrated Kassian doesn’t ‘know what is going on’ after being scratched again

Bonino expected to return for Canucks versus Bruins


The Vancouver Canucks, inundated with injuries of late, will actually have a player returning to the lineup tonight in Boston.

Nick Bonino (11G, 14A) is expected to be back centering the second line. The 26-year-old has been out since Feb. 9, when he hurt his foot blocking a shot versus Minnesota.

“It’s always good when you get some guys back,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said, per “You know he’s a big part for us and we’ve missed him while he’s been out. So if he’s back it’ll be great.”

The Canucks will still be without a number of regulars versus the Bruins, including three key defensemen, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev. Winger Alex Burrows is also expected to miss tonight’s game. And, of course, Ryan Miller will be sidelined for a while, leaving the starting goalie duties to Eddie Lack.

The Canucks have two games left on their five-game trip. They finish up Thursday in Buffalo.

Projected lines tonight:

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Zack Kassian
Shawn Matthias – Nick Bonino – Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins – Linden Vey – Derek Dorsett
Ronalds Kenins – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen

Related: With Krejci injured (again), opportunity knocks (again) for Spooner