Not a single Vancouver Canucks defencemen played all 82 regular season games this year, and that should serve the NHL team well given recent events.
The Canucks lost both Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome to upper-body injuries in a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Friday. Neither practised with their teammates Saturday, and both appear doubtful for Game 4 Sunday.
"We've got guys who can step in, and it hasn't been an issue all year," captain Henrik Sedin said. "That's why you sign guys in the offseason."
In their stead, the Canucks appear poised to use Keith Ballard, who will "probably" play according to head coach Alain Vigneault, and one of either Chris Tanev, who was summoned from Vancouver after not accompanying the team on Thursday's flight, or Andrew Alberts, who has played three playoff games this spring.
Tanev, a rookie, played 29 NHL games this season, but has not seen action since March 31. He arrived just 20 minutes before practice began, after being delayed on a commercial flight from Vancouver.
"I've played some games, but definitely playoff hockey is another step up," Tanev said. "So it will definitely be an adjustment if I get the chance to play."
Ballard, meanwhile, has been in Vigneault's doghouse since Game 2 of the Nashville series, after several turnovers. He said he was trying to do too much, and wasn't filling the role of a safe defenceman on the third pair.
"I was maybe forcing it a little too much with the puck," Ballard said. "If you are in that role of a No. 6, No. 7, No. 5 defenceman, you don't have a lot of room for error, and that's the reality of it."
Alberts would give Vigneault a bigger body, and a physical presence against the large Sharks forwards, plus he's more experienced. Tanev has an excellent stick in the defensive end, is more comfortable playing the puck, and showed great poise for a rookie.
Vigneault said he had a lot of faith in Ballard, and was confident that his team could weather the injuries to Ehrhoff and Rome. Sami Salo will likely get more power-play time in Ehrhoff's absence.
The coach would not provide an update on Rome's physical condition. He left the ice bleeding from his forehead, and looked a little dazed. The league did not hand down further discipline on San Jose's Jamie McGinn, who delivered the hit from behind and was assessed a game-misconduct and a five-minute boarding penalty.