VANCOUVER – Vancouver defenceman Sami Salo’s undisclosed injury did not stop him from playing Tuesday night as the Canucks met the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The crowd at GM Place let out a loud cheer as a team website reporter announced that Salo would indeed play. The Finnish blue-liner, who has suffered many freak injuries during his career and likes to keep reporters in suspense about his health, left both the warmup and the morning pre-game skate early.
After the morning workout, he disappeared from the Canucks dressing room before reporters were allowed in, and coach Alain Vigneault said he was still day-to-day.
Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Salo’s presence on the ice earlier Tuesday showed just how much he wants to play through pain after he was felled by a deflected slapshot at the end of the first period of Game 5 in Chicago and taken to hospital.
“He’s had a lot of injuries and he’s taken a lot of flak for it, but he’s played through so many injuries that guys don’t know about,” said Bieksa. “It’s not like he gets an injury and the next day he’s out. He’s been playing through stuff his whole career.”
Bieksa rated Salo and Vancouver centre Ryan Johnson, who kept playing despite broken bones in each feet this season, as two of the toughest players that he has skated alongside.
“I think (Salo’s presence at the morning skate shows) toughness and, obviously, Ryan Johnson has played half a year with two broken feet,” said Bieksa. “You see the poor guy hopping around on crutches many times around town here. So he’s definitely a warrior.”
Meanwhile, Salo’s return denied journeyman blue-liner Lawrence Nycholat a chance to play in his first NHL post-season game since turning pro with the Jackson Bandits of the ECHL in 2000-01.
Nycholat, a 31-year-old Calgary native who has only played 50 NHL regular-season games while spending most of his career in the minors, was with the Ottawa Senators when they went to the Stanley Cup final in 2007, but did not see any action.
“Obviously, it’s very exciting for me,” said Nycholat about his near opportunity. “I’ve just had to fight I don’t know how many times and never get into the playoffs.”