Vancouver Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault said center Manny Malhotra, who skated in practice, and defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who didn't, were game-time decisions for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
But if we had to wager, it'd be Malhotra in — completing his comeback from a horrific eye injury — and Hamhuis out, with what's assumed to be a leg injury but one that his coach has characterized as "middle body." Because Alain Vigneault can be like that.
Playing that hunch, how would the Canucks' lineup change as they try to go up 2-0 on the B's?
If Hamhuis can't go, it's a significant loss. He's third in total average ice time for the Canucks (24:50) and their leader in shorthanded TOI (3:29 per game). One of the reasons Kevin Bieksa has been a revelation in the 2011 postseason is named Dan Hamhuis, his defensive partner.
Bieksa skated with Aaron Rome in practice with Hamhuis out, while Christian Ehrhoff was paired with Andrew Alberts and Sami Salo was again with Alex Edler. Via the Vancouver Sun, Ehrhoff let is slip that Alberts would likely be in to replace Hamhuis in Game 2:
"It looked the same to me as it looked to you guys," Ehrhoff smiled, when asked if he expected Alberts to be by his side in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins. "So, yeah, that's what I think at this point. We skated together in the practice and I think that's how we're going to start out.
"I'm not concerned about him being rusty," added the German. "When you have a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final, you're going to be ready to play, no matter how long it's been since you stepped on the ice. Obviously, I'll try to help him early in the game and try to get him in the game as quickly as possible."
The White Towel rationalized Alberts being in instead of Keith Ballard, Alberts' first action since May 3, because (a) "it was reported that Alain Vigneault would not have played Ballard against San Jose if only one of his defencemen were injured"; and (b) for this reason:
Here's the thinking: The Canucks, like all of us, see Boston could have a tough time scoring in this series. One of the few areas which would help the Bruins out could be Vancouver turnovers in its own end. If you are asking who is more prone to turnovers among Ballard, Alberts and Aaron Rome, the answer is really a no-brainer.
Is there a risk Alberts foot speed, albeit better than last year, could be exploited? Of course. But do the Bruins have the playmakers to take advantage? Jury is leaning strongly in one direction on that one.
As for Malhorta, Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports theorized on the line he would appear on should he play:
If Malhotra pulls on a Canucks sweater for the first time in 2½ months, he will play on the fourth line between Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich, and be asked to take key face-offs. The Bruins won 36 of 64 (56 per cent) of the draws in the series opener, which they lost 1-0.
Will he play on special teams? Ryan Kesler is the Canucks' leader in shorthanded ice time (3:06) for Vancouver; Malhorta led the Canucks forwards in shorthanded ice time (2:45) during the regular season in 72 games.
The emotional jolt of seeing Malhotra out there, however, can't be quantified or underestimated.