It’s elementary at this point. The Vancouver Canucks need goals and they need wins.
With that in mind, it appears the Canucks will be loading up their second line for Game 2 of the Western Conference quarter-final against the San Jose Sharks, at least based on the evidence from Thursday’s practice at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks dropped Game 1 against the Sharks on Wednesday, scoring only one goal and prompting a shuffling of the lines the following morning.
The biggest change saw Ryan Kesler moved from centre to the wing, skating on a line with Chris Higgins and Derek Roy in the middle.
Of course, head coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t about to tip his hand to any lineup changes in advance of Friday’s game.
“Just things that we wanted to look at again on our end,” said Vigneault.
“We’ll put things together for tomorrow morning and see what happens tomorrow night.”
Roy, acquired from the Dallas Stars the day before the NHL trade deadline, and Higgins showed instant chemistry when first united.
Despite their immediate success and potential for more, they were split up in an attempt to balance out the top three lines.
“Obviously with Derek, we think the game the same way,” said Higgins.
“He’s a passer and I like to shoot it, so it kind of works out well in that regard.”
There was also concern for Kesler, who missed Wednesday’s morning skate and appeared to be labouring in his skating stride throughout the game.
“I was good enough to play. I suited up and I’m good,” said Kesler.
The Canucks’ only goal Wednesday came from defenceman Kevin Bieksa on a frantic goal-mouth scramble in front of goalie Antti Niemi.
Nothing before that, and nothing after, with the game in the balance.
Scoring has been a challenge for the Canucks all season. They finished the lockout-shortened regular season 19th in scoring throughout the entire league, with an average of 2.54 goals-for per game.
It was hardly complicated as to why the Canucks couldn’t generate much in the Sharks’ zone, particularly in the first and third periods, in the series opener. They simply didn’t have the puck as much as they wanted to, or needed to.
The Canucks were the more physical team, with 40 registered hits when the final buzzer sounded. For the most part, the Sharks never yielded, breaking the puck out of their zone with speed and efficiency.
“They’re a physical team, they’ve got guys that like to bump,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton.
“We executed getting out of our zone as much as we could. You know, the less time you play in your zone the more time you can play on offence.”
Thursday brought a sobering reminder of the reality facing the Canucks.
A loss Friday, and the Canucks would go down 2-0 in the opening-round series for a second consecutive year.
The disappointing final result from the 2012 playoffs combined with the Sharks’ 17-2-5 record on home ice during the regular season doesn’t lend itself to much, if any optimism if the Canucks can’t win Game 2.
“I need more from my whole team,” said Vigneault.
“There’s no doubt there that all our players understand that we have to get better and we’re going to get better.”
ROBERTO LUONGO TO START GAME 2
Roberto Luongo confirmed to reporters he will be the Canucks’ starting goaltender for Game 2.
Cory Schneider didn’t dress for Wednesday’s series opener, and didn’t skate Thursday at practice.
“You can interpret what you want at this time, he’s day-to-day,” said Vigneault of Schneider, who has been sidelined with an injury that occurred on April 22.
Luongo made 25 saves in the loss Wednesday night.
He was spectacular in the first period, making a save for the highlight reel on Martin Havlat, but the Sharks were able to find the net on a Logan Couture power play goal in the second, before Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau tallied in the third.
“I felt good during the game,” said Luongo.
“But when you don’t get a ‘W’ it’s tough to be satisfied with yourself, so you’re always trying to look at things you could’ve done better, maybe make one or two extra saves.
“But at the same time you don’t want to beat yourself up too much over it and you want to start focusing on the next one.”