Neither player has been able to draw into the lineup due to the strong play of Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev on the third pairing. Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness, who runs the team’s defence, says the two have been his best defence pairing and is comfortable playing them against any line in the league.
While Barker played 23 games with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, Alberts has not seen game action in nearly ten months. He last played a game on April 3, 2012 when the Canucks defeated the Anaheim Ducks in the third-to-last game of the 2011-12 season.
The Canucks will need to find a way to get both players in the lineup for some game action soon. One option is to send Alberts down to the Chicago Wolves on a conditioning assignment. The other is for the team to dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen for a game or two.
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher has regularly dressed seven defencemen throughout his coaching career.
“I’m welcoming it, for sure,” Boucher said in 2011. “That’s what I like. I’ve done that in midget, in junior, in the American League, and last year that’s what I did most of the year when I could in the NHL.”
Even though this is unorthodox, Boucher reasons it is beneficial and gives him flexibility in a game.
“When you have an injury during a game, you’re down to five defensemen. If you have a guy in the penalty box, you’re down to five defensemen again. So, if you have an extra defenseman it levels the playing field because you have six and aren’t stuck with playing five for two periods or whatever it is.”
As for using only 11 forwards, when there usually is 12: “It really depends on who is in my lineup. But you have a spot to fill there, a blank with whoever you want. So if somebody is playing great that night, you can have that guy get more ice time. You can spot your better players in that hole. It just creates an open spot, and you can create with some freedom.” (Lightning Strikes)
It makes it difficult for team’s to match as well.
With 11 forwards, one in the top six can get spot duty on a third or fourth line. That way, Boucher said, “you’re tough to match.” (Tampa Bay Times)
Forwards Jordan Schroeder and Maxim Lapierre are both dealing with strained groins, while Dale Weise has a sore neck. If one of the three are unable to play, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault should consider dressing seven defencemen as a way to get Alberts and Barker into the lineup.