VANCOUVER – Jeff Tambellini avoided a hometown heartbreak Wednesday as he returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Tambellini, who grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody, B.C., will replace Mason Raymond in the Canucks lineup after the winger suffered a vertebrae compression fracture in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.
“Without a doubt, (it’s) good for Jeff to come in at this point,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday prior to Game 7. “He has had some experience in this series, but he hasn’t played regular. But he’s going to get an opportunity here tonight to play the seventh game and win the Stanley Cup.”
Said Tambellini: “It’s a great moment. It’s a wonderful opportunity for everybody in this room to go and play the game of our lives and find a way to win the Stanley Cup.”
The opportunity has added meaning for Tambellini, who spent his youth around the Canucks while his father Steve, now general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, was a player and executive with the club. Despite his loyalties to the Oilers, the elder Tambellini came to town with other family members to cheer on his son and offer some brief advice.
“It was a pretty quick conversation,” Jeff Tambellini said. “Just make the most of the moment.”
The game might be Tambellini’s last with Vancouver as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Meanwhile, defenceman Nolan Baumgartner missed what could be his last chance to play in a Game 7 as he approaches the end of his career. There were indications that Baumgartner would suit up for the Canucks after spending the entire season in the minors with their Manitoba farm club.
He took the morning skate Wednesday for the first time since being recalled a week earlier. However, he was left out of the pre-game warmup.
It marked the second time in Baumgartner’s career that he missed a chance to play in the Stanley Cup championship series. He was with the Washington Capitals during the 1998 final, but didn’t suit up for any playoff games.
Still he was happy to be around the Canucks.
“Nothing has changed,” said the 35-year-old. “It’s the biggest show going right now. It’s nice to be a part of it.”
Baumgartner, who has spent nine seasons in the Canucks organization over three separate stints since 2002-03, was surprised to get the late promotion after the club bypassed him in favour of other players after Manitoba’s season ended. He was on vacation in Laguna Beach, Calif., with his wife and one-year-old son, getting a feel for the region in which the family plans to live after he retires, when he was summoned.
“I was actually by a pool with my son swimming,” said Baumgartner. “I got a few calls and I actually thought it was the wrong number because I was in the 714 area code and that was the number on my phone. So I didn’t answer it for a while and then I picked up the voice message and it was the Canucks calling.”
Game 7 was likely his last in the Canucks organization, if not his career. The club has several young defence prospects in their system and Baumgartner suspects it will be difficult to get another contract after his current one expires July 1.
A first-round pick of Washington in 1994, Baumgartner hopes to keep playing somewhere, but acknowledges the future is uncertain.
“I’ll play until they finally just kick me out of hockey.”
Notes: Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard took part in the pre-game warmup but was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.…Defenceman Dan Hamhuis remained out of the Vancouver lineup after suffering an undisclosed injury in Game 1. Winger Mikael Samuelsson was still sidelined as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle and sports hernia.