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Posted On Sunday, 11.22.2015 / 4:50 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Devils at Canucks

VANCOUVER Radim Vrbata missed out on the scoring Saturday night but the Vancouver Canucks right wing will return from injury against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (10 p.m. ET; SNP, SNV, MSG).

Vrbata was watching for a second straight game recovering from a lower-body injury when the Canucks scored three times late in the third period to end a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Vrbata won't be back on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who combined for four goals and nine points against Chicago, but will be counted on to hopefully spread out the scoring more against New Jersey.

"That's one of those games it seemed like everything was clicking for them and it's fun to see," Vrbata said. "I had a few of those in my career and it's fun to play those games, but we will need close to the same tonight."

Vrbata will either play on the right side of the second line centered by Bo Horvat or the third line alongside rookie center Jared McCann and Chris Higgins, who moves from right to left wing.

Posted On Saturday, 11.21.2015 / 8:39 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blackhawks at Canucks

VANCOUVER-- Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata will be a game-time decision when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports, WGN).

Vrbata missed the final game of a seven-game road trip Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets with a groin injury. The Canucks went 1-4-2 on the trip.

Vrbata took part in an optional morning skate Saturday. He has three goals in 19 games after leading Vancouver with 31 last season, but is second on the team with 74 shots.

Posted On Wednesday, 11.04.2015 / 5:08 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Versatile Vancouver Canucks left wing Chris Higgins will make his season debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, SN1, ROOT) after breaking his foot blocking a shot in the first preseason game in mid-September.

Higgins, who has scored between 10 and 18 goals each of four full seasons with the Canucks, debuts alongside 19-year-old right wing Jake Virtanen and center Brandon Sutter, who plays his first game against Pittsburgh since being traded to Vancouver in the summer.

"It's difficult when you miss this many games to start the year, it kind of puts you behind the 8-ball a little bit," said Higgins, who kills penalties and sees occasional power-play time. "Usually you get your feel for the game in preseason, and I am not afforded that luxury anymore so I gotta come in and just play simple to start and get my feet wet and hopefully go from there."

Posted On Monday, 11.02.2015 / 5:02 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flyers at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will get defenseman Dan Hamhuis back against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday (10 p.m. ET; TCN-PH, SNP) after he missed three games, but fellow defensemen Luca Sbisa is out indefinitely because of a lower-body injury.

"It's not a day-today injury. I think it's going to be longer than that," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said Monday of Sbisa, who played 16:40 Friday against the Arizona Coyotes but missed practice Sunday and was spotted wearing a walking boot Monday. "He is being re-evaluated today."

The Canucks were carrying a spare defenseman in Alex Biega but won't need to play him with Hamhuis ready to return after rehabbing what he called "a few nagging issues."

"It was a good week to get on top of a few things," said Hamhuis, who has two assists in eight games while averaging 19:14 of ice time. "Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final I am in the lineup. But it's a long season and you don't want to be playing at 50, 60, 70 percent and maybe things continuing to slide. So we took this opportunity to get on top of it and be closer to playing at 100 percent."

Posted On Tuesday, 10.27.2015 / 4:22 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canadiens at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will tweak their forward lines against the streaking Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; RDS, CITYM, SNV), when they try to avoid becoming part of a couple of historic streaks.

Montreal is attempting to become the third team in NHL history to win its first 10 games, and Vancouver is trying to avoid the longest losing streak on home ice to start a season in its history. The Canucks are 0-2-3 at Rogers Arena, matching their worst start at home since 1994-95, and would set the record for futility if they don't defeat the Canadiens.

"Obviously, it's big; Montreal is No.1 in the League," said Canucks forward Brandon Prust, who was traded from the Canadiens in the summer. "But to finally win one at home is our biggest task."

Posted On Saturday, 10.24.2015 / 4:30 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Red Wings at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Detroit Red Wings won't have defensemen Mike Green and Kyle Quincey against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, FS-D) after they were injured in a loss Friday against the Calgary Flames.

Detroit, which has one point in its past four games (0-3-1), lost Green to a hit late in the first period, leaving the Red Wings short on the back end as they blew a lead with 1:12 left in regulation and lost 3-2 in overtime. Quincey finished the game despite taking a big hit from Flames forward Sam Bennett with under nine minutes left in regulation.

"As he got onto the bus we had some inclination he didn't feel right," coach Jeff Blashill said.

Detroit called up defenseman Alexey Marchenko from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old Russian didn't arrive in time for an optional morning skate in Vancouver, but will play his third game in as many nights against the Canucks.

"It's not easy to get up in the morning and fly here," said Blashill, who coached Marchenko for two years in the AHL. "It is a challenge. It can't be an excuse. I have lots of belief in him but he's going have to come execute at a high level. He's earned lots of confidence from me."

Posted On Thursday, 10.22.2015 / 4:41 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Capitals at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks forward Radim Vrbata will skate on a line with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin for the first time this season Thursday against the Washington Capitals (10 p.m. ET; SN, SN360, CSN-DC).

Vrbata is has zero points in his first six games. Playing most of last season with the Sedins at even strength, Vrbata led the Canucks with 31 goals.

"The reason I came here last year was to have a chance to play with them and at the beginning of the season we were scoring. So hopefully we can do the same thing now," said Vrbata earlier this week. He did not skate or talk to the media Thursday. "Hopefully it is going to help a little bit and we get some scoring going. But I don't think it was too much about playing with different guys or chemistry. It was about burying the chances and for the puck to go in. But obviously if we can play the same way we did last year and score some goals, that would help big time."

Posted On Sunday, 10.18.2015 / 3:32 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Oilers at Canucks

VANCOUVER — Eighteen-year-old Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is coming off a breakout game, scoring two goals and an assist to help the Oilers to a 5-2 against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.

The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to counter with a breakout game from a new-look line of young forwards of their own against the Oilers (9 pm, ET; SN).

Sven Baertschi will be in the Canucks lineup after being a healthy scratch in the past two games, and will be on a line with 20-year-old center Bo Horvat and 19-year-old right wing Jake Virtanen. The young Vancouver trio combined for three goals and 10 points in a 5-2 win against the Oilers in the preseason, but haven't played together since.

Posted On Friday, 10.16.2015 / 4:28 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said he was hesitant to keep Bo Horvat in the lineup as a 19-year-old center early last season.

Friday against the St. Louis Blues, Desjardins will play two 19-year-olds, rookie forwards Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, while Horvat, now 20, centers the second line. Along with the emergence of 22-year-old rookie defenseman Ben Hutton, it's part of a youth movement that has helped the still veteran-heavy Canucks to a 3-0-1 start.

"What reassures you is what they've done in the past a little bit," Desjardins said of playing two teenagers. "They've played well enough to be in the lineup and that's why they are in. You always want a bigger sample size but they've played well. I've been happy with their play."

Posted On Saturday, 10.10.2015 / 5:00 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2015-16 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flames at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Jonas Hiller gets his turn in the Calgary Flames three-goaltender rotation Saturday knowing a win against the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; CBC) will keep him in the net.

Karri Ramo allowed five goals on 44 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Canucks in Calgary on Wednesday. With goalie Joni Ortio also still with the Flames and coach Bob Hartley talking openly about a win-and-you're-in philosophy, Hiller is aware how much he plays will depend on how well he plays. But he said he's trying not to focus too much on the result.

"I'm definitely excited to get the chance to play and I'll do my best to stay in the net as long as I can," Hiller said. "I know if I want to play more games I have to play at my best every night, which I don't think is out of the ordinary. I'm not too worried about winning. I want to focus on playing well and doing the things I can take care of and hopefully it's enough to win."

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We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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