VANCOUVER – It might be a chance for Keith Ballard to work off some of the nervous energy.
An injury to defenceman Dan Hamhuis has left the Vancouver Canuck defenceman a question mark for Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins. Like a pitcher in the bullpen, Ballard is ready if he gets the call from coach Alain Vigneault.
“I get so nervous watching,” Ballard, who has spent about half of the Canuck playoff games watching from the press box, said after his team practised Thursday. “There’s nothing you can do. You are just sitting in anticipation, waiting to see what will happen.
“You are not on the bench, or on the ice and you don’t have as good a feel of the game. You start to get a bit nervous.”
Hamhuis limped off the ice in the second period of Vancouver’s heart-stopping 1-0 victory over the Bruins in Game 1 Wednesday. He appeared to suffer a lower body injury either when he sent Boston’s Milan Lucic flying head-over-skates with a hip check, or when David Krejci cross-checked him in retaliation.
Hamhuis was not one of the few Canucks who skated at the Father David Bauer Arena at the University of British Columbia.
Vigneault was his usual evasive self when asked about Hamhuis’s status for Saturday’s Game 2.
“Day to day, that’s as specific as we get,” the coach said with a grin.
Ballard doesn’t have Hamhuis’s speed, but is good at puck movement and can play a physical game.
Vigneault does have the option of using rookie Chris Tanev or bruising Andrew Alberts instead.
“We have a lot of confidence in all our players,” said Vigneault. “If we need somebody to play minutes, I’m confident they’ll be able to step in and do a real good job for us.”
One player Vigneault knows he will have in the lineup is Alex Burrows.
The scrappy forward avoided suspension when the league said there was no conclusive evidence showing he intentionally bit the finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in Game 1.
Bergeron wasn’t backing down on his allegations, but was ready to move on with the series.
“I’ve let the league take care if it,” said Bergeron. “They did.
“I don’t want to whine about that stuff. I don’t care.”
What Bergeron does care about is the Bruins doing a better job of taking advantage of their scoring opportunities.
Boston went 0-6 on the power play in the opening game loss. They didn’t score on one five-on-three advantage or during a four-minute power play in the first period.
“We have to find a way to score more goals,” said Bergeron, who has four goals and 11 assists in 17 games. “We need to make sure we get to the net more, find a way to get more chances.”
The Bruins were good in Game 1, but coach Claude Julien said they need to be better overall if they hope to avoid falling behind 2-0 in the series.
“I expect our team to play better,” he said. “That’s in all areas, whether it’s physical, whether it’s what we create on offence.
“I’m not going to look at one area because I think we can be better in all areas. ”
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo made 36 stops for the shutout in the opening game. Boston’s Tim Thomas stopped 33 shots and didn’t give up the winning goal until just 18.5 seconds were left in the match.
Both goaltender are finalists for the Vezina Trophy.
Thomas can wander on the ice. Vigneault has accused him of initiating contact with his players in hopes of drawing a penalty.
“I mean, 90 per cent of his saves are where he’s outside the blue paint,” said Vigneault. “A lot of times he does initiate contact.
“We said last night that we were going to get a little bit of clarification on certain situations. We’re sure it was going to be fine.”
Thomas said he won’t be chained to his net.
“I have the right to go anywhere there’s open ice,” he said. “If I’m set, I have a right to that ice.
“If I’m out of the paint, and I’m set, I also have the right-of-way to get back to the crease.”
Canuck forward Jannik Hansen said Thomas’s adventures outside the crease could work in Vancouver’s favour.
“He plays a little further out than other goalies we’ve seen,” said Hansen, who fed the puck to Raffi Torres on Wednesday’s winning goal.
“We can’t takeruns at him even though he’s outside. It’s a matter of being careful. If he’s out there, there should be room around him and behind him. It’s something we can take advantage of.”
The playoffs have been a mixture of excitement and frustration for Ballard.
It’s the first time in his six-year NHL career he’s played in the Stanley Cup tournament. Being part of a Canuck team deep at defence, he’s dressed for just nine games.
“After playing five years without any taste of the playoffs, being on this run has been fun,” said the soft-spoken native of Baudette, Minn. “There’s been some personal ups and downs but I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
Sitting and watching hasn’t always been easy for the 28-year-old.
“You want so bad to be out there,” he said. “You want to be coming off the ice after a big win.
“You can’t allow the personal feelings or the negative feelings or anything like that get into your head. Once that starts, it’s hard to stop. We are all pulling for the same thing here. We want to win the Cup.”
Ballard spent three seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes and two with the Florida Panthers.
The Canucks acquired him and Victor Oreskovich last June in a trade that sent Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a first-round draft pick to Florida. He came with a contract that will pay him US$4.2 million a year for the next five years.
After Saturday, the series moves to Boston for games Monday and Wednesday.
Trailing in a series is nothing new for the Bruins. They have lost the opening game in three out of the four series this spring.
“We’ve been through it,” said Bergeron. “We know we can bounce back.
“We have to stay positive and confident that we can do it.”