By Mike Harrington
VANCOUVER -- Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is still less than 100 percent and didn't practice today in Rogers Arena after doing so at full speed Wednesday in Edmonton. So coach Ted Nolan is going to give British Columbia native Nathan Lieuwen his dream assignment: A start in goal tomorrow night against his favorite childhood team, the Vancouver Canucks.
"It's incredible. Obviously the past week has been a whirlwind for me but this is pretty special," Lieuwen said after getting the word today. "They were my team growing up so it will be cool to play in this building."
Lieuwen got his first NHL start Tuesday in Calgary and played well in a 3-1 defeat that saw him shut out the Flames for 38 minutes. He's from Abbotsford, BC, which is about 40 miles from here and had yet to speak to his family -- including three brothers -- about who will take over the ticket-seeking duties. Somebody needs to because he'll be otherwise occupied by the Sedin twins tomorrow.
"There's obviously gonna be a lot of emotions and a l ot of extra stuff that could creep into my head," Lieuwen said. "But I've got to stay focused on my process and what I need to do on the ice."
Nolan said Lieuwen, the Western Canada native, gets tomorrow's game and Easterner Matt Hackett will go Tuesday in Montreal.
"It will be great for Nathan to play in front of his family and friends and his home province," Nolan said. "He's a nice young man, well-mannered. He works on his trade. That's how you win in this game I believe. You win with good people and he seems to be one of the finest."
Nolan said the Sabres will keep the same lineup, which means Ville Leino will stay as a healthy scratch. One line shift will see Matt Ellis joining Matt D'Agostini and Brian Flynn on the third line with Nicolas Deslauriers going to the fourth line with Zenon Konopka and John Scott.
The Canucks will be honoring Henrik Sedin prior to the game for playing in his 1,000th career game last week in Winnipeg. Coach John Tortorella said Daniel Sedin will return to the lineup tonight after missing nine games with a hamstring injury suffered in the March 3 Heritage Classic in BC Place. Ryan Kesler (sprained knee) said he was feeling better and could return. He has been out since March 12.
The Canucks are currently five points out of the last playoff spot in the West, pending Phoenix's game later tonight against Boston.
Click below to hear from Nolan and Lieuwen, as well as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on his second return to Vancover since joining the Sabres in 2011.