VANCOUVER – Speedy winger Mason Raymond is out with a broken left thumb and the Vancouver Canucks likely won’t have defenceman Christian Ehrhoff in the lineup when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night.
The Canucks will start Cory Schneider in goal, replacing Roberto Luongo for the nationally televised game (CBC, 10:30 p.m. ET). Prior to the match the Canucks will retire the No. 19 of former captain Markus Naslund.
Naslund and his family will attend the ceremony, which will see his jersey join those of Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl as the only three Canucks to have their sweaters retired.
Raymond is fourth on the Canucks in scoring with seven goals and 18 points. Ehrhoff is an offensive defenceman who logs over 23 minutes a game. Both were hurt in Vancouver’s 5-4, come-from-behind victory against the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday.
Raymond broke his thumb after being taking into the boards heavily in the second period. He was seen wincing in pain on the bench and did not practice with the team Friday.
Coach Alain Vigneault said the 25-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., is ”week to week.”
Ehrhoff, 28, was struck near the left ear by a puck late in the game.
“He had quite a few stitches,” said Vigneault. “He’s feeling a lot of discomfort.
“We’re not sure if it’s from the shot or more serious. We kept him off (the ice) today and I would say he’s doubtful for tomorrow.”
Vigneault was asked if there’s concerns Ehrhoff, who has four goals and 10 points, may have suffered a concussion.
“That would be up there,” he said. “It’s tough to know right now because of where the shot hit him. We’ll probably know in the next couple of days.”
On a positive note forward Mikael Samuelsson practised with the team and could take Raymond’s spot on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Jeff Tambellini. Samuelsson suffered what the team called a mild concussion in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
“He felt fine today,” said Vigneault. “We will see how he is tomorrow. If he feels fine he would be able to go.”
Losing the workhorse Ehrhoff will force Vigneault to juggle his defensive pairings.
It’s expected Keith Ballard will be matched with Alex Edler. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis will remain a unit while Andrew Alberts will get a chance to play with Aaron Rome.
Ballard said replacing Ehrhoff isn’t easy.
“He plays in all situations,” said Ballard. “His contributions on the offensive end are very important as far as what he does for the power play.
“Five-on-five, he jumps into the play and gives us an extra attacker. He’s almost like a fourth forward.”
Schneider hasn’t played since relieving Luongo in Vancouver’s 7-1 loss to Chicago on Nov. 20.
“I’ve been working really hard in practice and treating those as games,” said Schneider, who has a 3-0-1 record and 2.08 goals-against average in six games.
“There’s been a couple of times where I’ve gone a week or two without a game. When you go three weeks it’s not much different.”
Luongo is expected to play when the Canucks face the Oilers Sunday in Edmonton.
Taking some of the sting out of the injury to Raymond is the improved play of Tambellini.
Tambellini has three goals and six assists since the Canucks recalled him from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL on Nov. 24. He scored once in regulation time, then notched the only goal in the shootout against Anaheim.
“It’s been great,” said Tambellini. “I just wanted to come here and play.
“I play both ends of the ice hard. I like to be a guy that can create a lot of energy. Hopefully I have an offensive aspect to my game too.”
In 12 games with Vancouver this year Tambellini has five goals and four assists and is plus-3.
The 26-year-old left-winger is the son of Steve Tambellini, the long-time Canuck player and Vancouver’s former assistant general manager who is now GM of the Edmonton Oilers.
The five-foot-11, 185-pound Tambellini was drafted 27th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003. He was traded to the New York Islanders in March of 2006, then signed as a free agent with Vancouver in July 2009.
The Canucks are 5-1 in their last six games. They lead the Northwest Division with a 15-8-1 record for 33 points, leaving them third in the tight Western Conference standings.
The Lightning come to town with star winger Steve Stamkos having cooled down from his torrid start. Stamkos had 21 goals in the first 22 games of the season, but heading into Friday night’s match against Edmonton he had gone six games without a goal.
Schneider said it would be dangerous to ignore Stamkos or Martin St. Louis.
“It seems like they are always trying to find each other,” said Schneider. “As team we have to be aware.
“We’re not going to change a whole lot of our system. We’re going to make them try to adapt to what we do so hopefully we can neutralize them.”
It’s going to be an emotional night for Naslund. He spent 11 years with the Canucks and was the team’s captain from 2000 to 2008.
Naslund led Vancouver in scoring for seven seasons, scored 30 or more goals six times and enjoyed three consecutive years with 40 or more goals. The left-winger scored 346 goals as a Canuck and remains Vancouver’s leading scorer with 756 points.
Bieksa remembers Naslund as a veteran who made time for the young players.
“He showed everybody respect,” said Bieksa. “I was a young guy coming in and he treated me like he would treat everybody else.
“He spoke to me, asked me how I was doing, if everything was OK. Just to have an older guy like that keeping an eye on you meant a lot.”