VANCOUVER – Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault hopes Manny Malhotra’s eye injury will help galvanize the Canucks as the playoffs approach.
“Manny was really a huge part of our team, not just for what he did on the ice but for what he brought in the dressing room,” Vigneault said Saturday. “I think to some extent that this could be a good rallying point for the guys. Obviously, he’s not here right now and we have to find a way–like we’ve found all year long when we’ve had guys that have been out–to continue to win.”
Malhotra was injured Wednesday night against Colorado when a pass deflected off the stick of Colorado defenceman Erik Johnson into his eye. He needed surgery that night and questions remain about the long-term quality of his vision. Vigneault said there was no update on his status.
“It touches anybody within our organization right now–to a very strong extent,” said Vigneault. “It’s a serious injury. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now with that and, hopefully, everything’s going to work out.”
He appeared briefly at practice Saturday, but declined to talk to reporters on his way out of Rogers Arena.
“He came in to say hi to his teammates,” said Vigneault. “It was just a quick little visit and that was it.”
But the league-leading Canucks, who have won seven of their last eight, received better news about their injured defencemen. Vigneault said Kevin Bieksa, who has missed 15 games with a broken foot suffered Feb. 17, will likely play in Detroit Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Alex Edler, who has missed 24 games following back surgery in early January, will skate with fellow blue-liner Andrew Alberts, who is recuperating from a broken wrist suffered in mid-January.
“I think (Edler) is going to skate with Andrew here for the next 10 days to two weeks, which puts us to the end of March, and then I think he’ll be close, depending on how these next steps go, to trying to practise with the group,” said Vigneault.
Even with the defencemen returning, rookie rearguard Chris Tanev does not have to worry about being returned to the minors. Vigneault said Tanev, 21, a pleasant surprise since he was called up in mid-January for what was expected to be a short stay, will remain with the team in the playoffs.
“Right now, with him, we’ve got six healthy D,” said Vigneault. “I’m confident that Kevin (Bieksa) will be in Detroit on Wednesday. So that will be seven, but we’ve used (Tanev) as a call-up. We’ve got the four call-ups that you can use after the trading deadline, so I don’t think that we’re going to send him back, because we’ve used a call-up on him.”
Roster rules and numbers aside, Vigneault indicated Tanev deserves to stay because of his play.
“He just plays the game a little bit smarter…He can move it north-south real quick and he gets out of trouble,” said Vigneault. “So he’s been real smart about what makes him a player that can contribute to our success.”
But injured winger Tanner Glass won’t make a contribution for a while. Glass was due back soon from a previously undisclosed rib injury suffered in practice March 9, but has not been able to practise since and his status on the road trip is uncertain.
“(Glass) had an MRI (Friday),” said Vigneault. “He’s had all the tests and all the tests revealed the same thing. There’s a slight irritation in his ribs that’s making him painful to pass and shoot. What we thought was a day-to-day thing has turned out to be a little bit longer. We think we’re going to bring him on the trip here, and we’re hoping (he will play) sometime during the trip.”
Earlier Saturday, Vancouver sent winger Victor Oreskovich back to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. He had been recalled on an emergency basis as a result of Malhotra’s injury. The team will decide whether to bring him back up or promote another player by Wednesday.
Even with a Northwest Division title clinched and first overall relatively secure, Vigneault does not plan to rest any players in the nine games before playoffs. Centre Ryan Kesler isn’t complaining.
“Resting players? I don’t like that,” said Kesler. “You want to get your game to as close to perfection as possible, and now’s the time to work on things–and no one needs a day off.”