May 042009
 

The Vancouver Canucks flew to Chicago this morning; Sami Salo wasn’t on the flight.

The Vancouver Canucks made the trip to the Windy City without defenceman Sami Salo.

He remained in Vancouver for treatment on a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2 of the Canucks’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Salo came off the ice after he scored the first Vancouver goal in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Afterward, coach Alain Vigneault would only say that it’s a lower-body injury and that Salo was listed as day-to-day.

If Salo is out for any extended period of time, it’s a tremendous loss to the Canucks. Including Saturday night’s game when he left in the 1st period, the Canucks are 39-18-7 with Salo in the lineup and 10-10-3 without him.

Simply, he’s their best overall defenseman. He plays with Willie Mitchell on the team’s shutdown pairing and he moves the puck better than any Canuck defenseman. He plays on the 1st unit powerplay, and in fact, 14 of his 25 regular season points and all 5 of his goals were on the powerplay; 2 of those goals were game-winners. He has 6 points so far in the playoffs and 4 of them were on the powerplay; he has 3 goals, including 2 on the powerplay and 2 game-winners.

Needless to say, the Canucks will need the rest of the defense to step it up. In all likelihood, Ossi Vaananen will replace Salo in the lineup. Vaananen played some big minutes alongside Kimmo Timonen earlier in the season so he should be able to play Salo’s minutes. (He logged 17:54 minutes of ice-time in game 4 of the St. Louis series.) He’s also a more defensively-minded defenseman which should free up someone like Kevin Bieksa offensively.

Now speaking of Bieksa, I think he needs to step up his game the most. In the regular season, he led the defense with 43 points in 72 games (0.60 points/game). So far, he has 2 assists in 6 playoff games and he plays the second-most powerplay ice-time of all Canucks defensemen (4:00 PP minutes/game). (Alex Edler leads the team averaging 4:01 PP minutes/game). That’s not to say he hasn’t been productive because he’s contributed in other ways, but with Salo out, they need him to start contributing offensively again as well.

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