The Vancouver Canucks have prided themselves on their depth all year as they posted the best record in the regular season and made it through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
That depth could be severely tested in the Western Conference finals with the status of key defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome in doubt heading into today’s Game 4 against the San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks lead the series, 2-1, but are coming off a 4-3 loss in Game 3 that could prove costlier than just one game if Ehrhoff and Rome are forced to miss time.
“As a group we’ve dealt with a lot of injuries this year,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ve been able to handle it real well. One of the things that we have given ourselves is more depth on defense. We’ve really worked at making sure that the guys that weren’t in the lineup were staying ready and they knew that at one point or another we might need them down the road. Whoever we use, I’m confident they’re going to do real well.’’
Ehrhoff and Rome both left Friday night’s game early after hits by San Jose’s fourth-line winger Jamie McGinn. McGinn was given a major boarding penalty and game misconduct for his third-period hit on Rome but didn’t receive any additional discipline from the NHL yesterday despite it being his second game misconduct in five postseason games.
McGinn said he is a clean player and that the hit that left Rome bloodied after he hit his head against the glass was simply a “freak’’ accident.
“I’m not trying to hurt anyone, but I think it helps our team a lot,’’ McGinn said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get in on their defense and wear and tear them down.’’
The Canucks wouldn’t address whether they thought McGinn deserved a suspension as their focus is on bouncing back from the Game 3 loss and getting two new defensemen ready if the regulars can’t go.
Ehrhoff and Rome both sat out practice yesterday, and Vigneault wasn’t optimistic about their chances this afternoon.
The Canucks have options at the back end with Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts being tested veterans who have been healthy scratches this series. The Canucks also flew in defenseman Chris Tanev from Vancouver yesterday as insurance.
Ballard has played seven games this postseason but none since Game 2 of the second round against Nashville. Alberts, the former Bruin, has played three playoff games, last getting action in Game 3 against the Predators.
Ehrhoff leads Vancouver defensemen with 11 points this postseason, with seven coming on the power play.
Thrashing it out About 200 Atlanta Thrashers fans gathered to tailgate outside Philips Arena for perhaps the final time. With the Thrashers reportedly close to being sold and moving to Winnipeg, fans blamed the team’s ownership group, the Atlanta Spirit, for the club’s seemingly imminent departure this week. “We’ve been lied to for six years,’’ Jenn Peters, 30, said while choking back tears as she flipped through a collection of ticket stubs. “It’s hard to watch as a fan because there’s nothing you can do but show up. You can voice your opinion and you can show up, but that’s all you can do.’’ . . . Derek Boogaard might have been “The Boogeyman’’ during his rough life as an NHL enforcer, but he was remembered yesterday as a gentle giant off the ice. Rain fell as family, friends, and hockey players filed into a chapel at the RCMP training academy in Regina, Saskatchewan, to pay tribute to the 28-year-old Boogaard, who was found dead May 13 at his home in Minneapolis. Officials said Boogaard’s death was an accident, due to a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful pain killer oxycodone. “Derek had a way of attracting people,’’ former Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said. “He had a way of comforting people. A big man with a soft heart. On the ice, players were trying to get away from him. Off the ice, the people were trying to be around him.’’