VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks changed their bottom three forward lines Friday in a bid to draw even with the San Jose Sharks in their Western Conference quarter-final.
In the most notable move, Ryan Kesler was reunited with Derek Roy and Chris Higgins on the second line. Kesler, normally a centre, drew a wing slot, but was slated to take faceoffs on the right side of the ice in order to take advantage of his right-handed shot.
Kesler said the move to wing for Friday’s Game 2 was not a drastic change.
“It’s hockey out there,” said Kesler after his team’s morning skate. “The only difference is in the (offensive) zone, right? Other than that, you get used to it.”
Roy, acquired at the trade deadline from Dallas, was ticketed to start at centre, while Higgins was in his usual left wing spot. The trio played well together late in the regular season, with Higgins and Roy displaying some chemistry.
But Kesler’s wing assignment posed a risk to a team that is not deep at centre.
Roy moved up after playing on the third line in Game 1. Max Lapierre drew the third-line centre spot for Game 2, a position with which he has been comfortable. He played wing on the fourth line in the opener.
Andrew Ebbett retained his fourth-line centre spot for the second consecutive game. As a result of the changes, winger Zack Kassian found himself playing on the fourth line after playing with the second unit in Game 1.
The first line remains the trio of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows.
The moves are designed primarily to help the Canucks generate more offence after their lone goal in Game 1 resulted from Sharks winger Raffi Torres putting the puck into his own net.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault is hoping to produce more scoring chances by having his squad crash the San Jose net more often.
“We need to do a much better job,” said Vigneault. “Just like their (last) two goals were scrambly, it seems to be the type of goals that are scored in the NHL at this time. It’s tough to score.”
With Kesler and left-handed Roy on the same line and both deployed in different faceoff situations, the Canucks also had a better chance of winning more draws after they struggled in the circle in the first game.
Kesler denied accusations, made by Sharks captain Joe Thornton and others, that he has cheats on faceoffs.
“I’ve been taking faceoffs my whole career, and I’m not doing anything different,” said Kesler. “If they want to say I’m cheating or whatever, I haven’t changed anything. I’ve been doing the same thing my whole career.”
Thornton has also admitted he and Logan Couture have cheated. Tricks include slashing an opponent’s stick and encroaching on the faceoff dot before the puck is dropped.
Meanwhile, Sharks winger Martin Havlat was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. He left the first game early after taking a stick in the mid-section from Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. Sharks coach Todd McLellan did not want to discuss the incident.
Bieksa said he didn’t remember it.
Notes: Rookie goaltender Joe Cannata drew the backup assignment behind Vancouver starter Roberto Luongo for the second straight game. … Cory Schneider, tagged as the playoff starter early in the season, continues to recover from an undisclosed injury. Schneider took part in a morning skate that involved mostly healthy scratches as well as Luongo and Cannata. Vigneault said he does not yet know whether Schneider will travel to San Jose for Games 3 and 4.