In their biggest game of the season, the Vancouver Canucks are turning to one of their youngest and most inexperienced players.
Chris Tanev is expected to replace Keith Ballard on defence for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final at Rogers Arena Friday. The 21-year-old rookie played 29 NHL games during the regular season, and the last two games of the Western Conference final against the San Jose Sharks.
But if there is one standout quality to Tanev, it is his poise. He is the antithesis to the high-strung Ballard, an unflappable young man who doesn't panic or let bright lights affect performance.
"It's just my personality and just how I am," Tanev said. "I don't get too excited, and I don't get too sad."
The Canucks and Bruins are tied 2-2, making the Cup final a best-of-three for a third straight year. Each team has held serve on home ice.
Tanev said he is nervous like a typical rookie on the inside, and added that he was able to handle the big Sharks forwards in the third round, so suspects no trouble against Boston's size. Head coach Alain Vigneault praised his ability to make the first pass and kick start Vancouver's transition game.
Vigneault said his second line, especially wingers Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins, have to enter the "tough areas" more consistently, and that his team must be better in the second period, in which it has been outscored 8-0. The coach also expressed confidence in a power play that has gone 1-for-22 in the series.
"Like I said last game, tonight's the night," Vigneault said with a smile.
Taking Ballard out of the lineup means another new partner for Kevin Bieksa. The Canucks defenceman has played with three partners already in this postseason -- Dan Hamhuis, Aaron Rome and Ballard -- although he isn't likely to play with Tanev because both are more comfortable on the right side. Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff are most likely to play together, with Tanev and Andrew Alberts forming the third pair.