ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, December 16, 1999
Mess cleaned up?
Canucks captain could be back tonight against the Sens
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks could be ready to let The Moose loose tonight against the Senators.
Just when it looked like the Senators had arrived in Vancouver at exactly the right time, the Canucks could be boosted by the return of captain Mark Messier to the lineup tonight at GM Place.
Troubled by a sprained knee he suffered Nov. 9 against the Sharks, Messier took part in another strenuous practice yesterday in suburban Burnaby and all indications are he is ready to play.
If that's not enough bad news for the Sens, winger Alex Mogilny's sore back is better and defenceman Adrian Aucoin is also ready to return from a groin strain, which means the battered Canucks ice a stronger lineup.
"We'll see how the knee responds (today)," said Messier, who will be back 10 days ahead of the original schedule if he does suit up against the Sens.
"It's feeling pretty good. It feels much better than it has over the last week," he said. "Is it 100%? Probably not. It's completely up to me when I play. I'm the only one who knows how my knee really feels."
Vancouver has won only one of its last 11 games, but thanks to a strong start, the Canucks have stayed in the in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Canucks will battle for the seventh or eighth position in the conference, so they can't afford to keep losing ground. Mogilny and Aucoin will definitely play tonight and Messier's return would be a bonus.
"To a man, I think everyone was thrilled to have all those bodies back," said Vancouver coach Marc Crawford. "We're hopeful that Alex will go and that Adrian will go and that even Mark may go. Any one of those guys coming back would be a boost.
"If we can get a couple back, it will be a big boost and if we get all three back, it will be very, very encouraging."
Sens coach Jacques Martin, who hopes to have defenceman Igor Kravchuk back in the lineup after he practised yesterday, knows the task just got tougher.
"They're a good team and I think having those guys back is going to give them a boost," said Martin. "I know they've had a lot of guys injured, but this is going to be a tough test for us."