Manny Malhotra out of Canucks' lineup; Colin Campbell no longer dean of discipline
Greetings from Vancouver, site Wednesday of the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Canucks skated Wednesday morning at Rogers Arena but the Boston Bruins opted to hold meetings at their hotel before meeting the press at noon. We’ll have some comments from the Bruins later.
The big issue was the absence for the second straight day of Canucks center Manny Malhotra, who had appeared to be making remarkable progress in his recovery from an eye injury but won’t play in Game 1. The fourth line is expected to consist of Alex Bolduc, Victor Oreskovich and Jeff Tambellini.
Before Canucks management confirmed to the Vancouver Province and other media that Malhotra will not play, Coach Alain Vigneault refused to be definitive.
Pressed to clarify if “today” meant that Malhotra wouldn’t be playing tonight, Vigneault wouldn’t budge, saying he doesn’t discuss lineup decisions.
Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said regaining the services of the faceoff-savvy Malhotra, who was struck in the eye on March 16, “would mean a lot.” Said center Ryan Kesler: “Whenever he’s ready we’ll welcome him with open arms.”
Players were also asked about whether they’ll have nerves Wednesday after having played in so many crucial games on the world stage — including the Winter Olympics, held here a year ago.
“I think this is obviously the biggest game you can play,” Sedin said. “I think you look at Olympic finals, world championships. But when you play this long with good friends and teammates, it's the biggest game you can play.
“I mean, you played 82 games just to get in, then it's a long run in the playoffs too. For sure the biggest games you can play in.”
Defenseman Sami Salo agreed. “For sure, it's like the Holy Grail,” he said. “It’s a very long road to get to the playoffs. Only a few players have a chance to play for the Cup. Nothing compared to the Olympics or the World Championships.”
The Canucks won the first game of each of their previous three playoff series, and team captain Henrik Sedin said continuing that streak would be a huge advantage in the finals.
“It means apart from being up 1-0, it gives you confidence, it shows you can play against the other team. You don't really have to change a lot of things,” he said.
“You go out, you're up 1-0, the next game they're going to have to make adjustments to beat you. That's an advantage, for sure.”
We’ll have more later, including Commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual pre-series news conference Wednesday afternoon. Among the likely topics: Tuesday’s announcement by the NHL that the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold and will relocate to Winnipeg for next season, and reports that Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, will relinquish his role as the league’s disciplinarian.
Campbell has had to recuse himself from ruling on actions in this series because his son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins. But his apparent decision to hand disciplinary matters to Brendan Shanahan is a long-awaited and widely welcomed move among fans who have been baffled and frustrated by the inconsistency of Campbell’s rulings in meting out suspensions and fines.
-- Helene Elliott, in Vancouver, Canada
Photo: Manny Malhotra. Credit: Andy Clark / Reuters