Vancouver will take any contributions it can get from its
depleted defense corps. A rookie defenseman making his NHL debut
gave the Canucks a major boost the last time they faced the
The NHL-leading Canucks close out their three-game road trip
with their first visit of the season to Bridgestone Arena on
Vancouver (37-12-9) has a nine-point lead in the Western
Conference, but it would likely feel far more comfortable about its
position if it had a healthy defense. Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis
and Andrew Alberts have been injured in the last 10 days, and Kevin
Bieksa joined that group when he suffered what turned out to be a
broken foot when he blocked a shot Tuesday.
He returned and helped the Canucks finish a 4-1 victory over
Minnesota, but Vancouver called up Evan Oberg from the AHL to take
his place in Nashville. Bieksa says there’s no timetable for his
“I kind of knew. I had a feeling,” he told reporters after the
Thursday morning skate. ”We get hit in the foot probably thousands
of times with pucks and you kind of have a feeling when there’s
something wrong so it didn’t feel like the usual hit that
Defenseman Alex Edler is also out indefinitely following back
surgery this month.
Vancouver got a key contribution from a defenseman when it last
faced Nashville, as Lee Sweatt beat Pekka Rinne with 7:29 remaining
in his league debut to lift the Canucks to a 2-1 victory Jan.
Sweatt, however, suffered a foot fracture in practice earlier
this month and hasn’t played since Feb. 2.
The rash of injuries to its defense has put more pressure on the
Canucks’ forwards. Vancouver, which leads the league with 196
goals, managed 14 shots Tuesday and had one in the third period –
an empty-net goal by Ryan Kesler.
“That takes away from a lot of your offense when your forwards
are trying to stay deep and play defensively,” backup goaltender
Cory Schneider told the team’s official website after making 28
Roberto Luongo stopped 26 shots against the Predators last month
and has gone 3-1-0 with a 2.43 goals-against average in his last
four starts in Nashville. He made 33 saves in the teams’ last
matchup at Bridgestone Arena, a 4-2 Canucks victory March 7.
Nashville, which has lost of five of six home meetings with
Vancouver, is looking to rebound from a 2-1 overtime loss to San
Jose on Tuesday. The Predators have dropped all five of their
contests decided in OT.
“Sometimes you’ve got to keep it simple,” coach Barry Trotz
said. “… You have to get it deep, keep possession, wear them
down, open up some seams and see if you can break down
Nashville has had trouble doing that this season, as it’s near
the bottom of the NHL with 151 goals. The lack of production is a
major reason why Rinne is 8-4-6 at home despite a 1.94 GAA in those
The Predators (30-19-8) have been far more effective
defensively, allowing 135 goals – among the fewest in the league.
Nashville is one of the best penalty killing teams at 86.4 percent
and killed off all four short-handed situations against Vancouver
on Jan. 26.
Nashville, though, faces a Canucks club that topped the NHL with
a 25.3 power-play percentage going into Wednesday’s games.
Vancouver has gone 11 for 27 with the man advantage during its
current 8-2-0 stretch.
Canucks leading scorer Daniel Sedin extended his point streak
against Nashville to five games with an assist last month. He has
two goals and six assists in that span.