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Posted On Saturday, 03.02.2013 / 4:23 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Defenseman Martinez cleared to rejoin Kings

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Alec Martinez has been medically cleared to return to the Los Angeles Kings lineup, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

But whether or not he cracks a roster that has won five straight games and seven of the past eight remains to be seen. Sutter certainly hinted it wasn’t guaranteed, even though Martinez was one of the six defensemen to play every game of the Kings’ Stanley Cup Championship run last summer.

“He’s not getting in just for what he did,” Sutter said of Martinez, who hasn’t played since Feb. 11 and took part in his first full practice Friday. “He’s got to beat somebody out. So when that happens, if it’s based on other guy’s performance, [it's] not that big a deal.”

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Posted On Saturday, 03.02.2013 / 4:13 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Defenseman Bieksa game-time decision for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Kevin Bieksa is a game-time decision for the Vancouver Canucks after missing the past two with a sore groin, but whether he plays or not, they will have to shake up their roster for Saturday night’s game against the streaking Los Angeles Kings.

Ryan Kesler’s fractured right foot, and his attempt to play through the injury for six games, made sure of that. By the time the results of Kesler’s CT scan were known, the Canucks had placed fourth-line wing Aaron Volpatti on waivers a few hours earlier, losing him to a claim by the Washington Capitals.

That combination led to Vancouver claiming 6-foot-5, 228-pound forward Tom Sestito off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers, and the recall and subsequent demotion back to the American Hockey League of journeyman Andrew Ebbett.

It won’t help a Canucks team struggling to find chemistry and coming off consecutive losses, especially with three natural centers among their 12 healthy forwards.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.27.2013 / 5:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Canucks' Kesler sidelined by broken foot

Ryan Kesler
Center - VAN
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 5
SOG: 15 | +/-: -4
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver center Ryan Kesler has a broken right foot and could miss the Canucks' busiest month of the season.

Coach Alain Vigneault said a CT scan taken on Wednesday morning revealed the fracture. He did not have a timeline for the return of his Selke Trophy-winning center, but it's bad timing for a team about to play 16 games in March.

"Any fracture is usually four to six weeks, depending on the nature of the fracture," Vigneault said. "Some are less -- hairline fractures. I haven't gotten at length with our doctors how long this will be."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 4:46 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Coyotes expect to cut out defensive letdowns

VANCOUVER -- The Phoenix Coyotes won't get any of their key injured players back for Tuesday night's road game against the Vancouver Canucks, but coach Dave Tippett expects his team to get back to its defense-first approach after a couple of letdowns.

It was missing when Phoenix uncharacteristically blew consecutive leads against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames to start this three-game road trip. They lost in a shootout in Edmonton on Saturday after blowing a two-goal lead, and in regulation to Calgary the next night after giving up two goals in the final 1:23 to lose 5-4.

"Maybe a wake-up call for our group," captain Shane Doan said.

The rare defensive letdowns can be partly explained by the continued absence of veteran defenseman Derek Morris, who skated hard on Tuesday morning, but will miss a fifth game. Fellow defender David Schlemko, who signed a two-year, $2.38-million contract extension on Monday, has been out for three weeks with a shoulder injury.

"Derek Morris has probably been one of, if not our best player when he is in the lineup," Doan said. "Hopefully we get him back soon."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 2:58 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Canucks shift defensive pairings, start Schneider

VANCOUVER -- Cory Schneider is over a brief battle with the flu and back in the Vancouver Canucks' net against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.

His teammates are hoping to bounce back from a defensive effort that would be enough to make most goalies nauseous. A sick Schneider watched from the bench as Roberto Luongo was torched during an 8-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

"We were all pretty embarrassed by that game," Schneider said of the last stop on a four-game road trip. "We're not going to let that sit in our minds too long, we're going to come back and defend home ice."

They will do so without defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who injured his groin during the road trip and remains day-to-day. As one of only two natural right-side defensemen on the roster, the loss of Bieksa necessitated some juggling on the defensive pairings, and after they failed miserably against the Red Wings, there will be more Tuesday.


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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 4:25 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Canucks making one change to lineup

The Vancouver Canucks will make one lineup change after having a six-game winning streak snapped, with Roberto Luongo back in goal after Cory Schneider struggled in Vancouver's 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars Friday.

While that will only increase the glare of an already bright spotlight on the Canucks' rotating goalie situation, Luongo is the first to pass the credit for his NHL-leading 1.45-goals against average to the tight defensive play in front of him.

Going into the Canucks' game against the St. Louis Blues Sunday night, Vancouver leads the NHL with just 14 goals against while playing five-on-five. Four of those came Friday in a blown-lead loss to the Stars, and that included two Schneider would admittedly want back. Up until that game, though, Luongo said this is as tight as the Canucks have played in his six-plus seasons here.

"It's not just us goalies and the D, it's the forwards too, coming back, putting pressure on guys, making sure they don't have the time and space to make plays," Luongo said. "It all starts with back pressure – we've barely given up any odd-man rushes. If you eliminate that from the game we already have a big jumpstart on other teams. After that just make sure we play our system 5-on-5 and don't give up much."

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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 4:00 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Luongo to start for Canucks

Vancouver, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks will make just one lineup change two days after having a six-game win streak snapped, with Roberto Luongo back in goal after Cory Schneider struggled in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

That change will only increase the glare of an already bright spotlight on the Canucks' rotating goalie situation. But Luongo is the first person to credit the team in front of him for his NHL-leading 1.45 goals-against average.

Going into Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver leads the NHL with just 14 goals allowed while playing five-on-five. Four of those came Friday night, when they blew a 3-1 lead mid-way through the game. The Stars scored three unanswered goals to win that game, including two Schneider would likely want back. Despite the musical chairs in the Vancouver crease, Luongo insists this is as sound the Canucks have played defensively in his six-plus seasons here.

“It’s not just us goalies and the D, it's the forwards too. Coming back, putting pressure on guys, making sure they don’t have the time and space to make plays,” Luongo said. “It all starts with back pressure – we’ve barely given up any odd-man rushes. If you eliminate that from the game we already have a big jumpstart on other teams.”

Vancouver allowed just six goals during their six-game win streak, which coincided with Alain Vigneault's decision to break up his top defensive pairing of Jason Garrison and Alexander Edler, who is playing his first full season as a left shot on the right side. The Vancouver defense has been mostly airtight since the change.

“It’s an extremely tight team and we have close support, especially in our end and that’s been good to get out of our end," Garrison said. "You have quick, easy passes and everyone moves as a five-man unit.”

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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 3:41 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blues' Halak ready, but Allen remains in net

VANCOUVER -- Goalie Jaroslav Halak is ready to return to the St. Louis Blues’ net.

Jake Allen’s strong play means the Blues don’t have to rush him back into a game.

After winning his first two NHL starts, Allen will be in goal for a third-straight game Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Halak, though, told NHL.com after the morning skate he will back up for the first time since hurting his groin in a Feb. 1 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Halak was set to start Feb. 11 against the Los Angeles Kings, but tweaked the groin in the pre-game warm ups.

"I’m going to back up tonight," Halak said.

Allen earned the chance to build off his first two NHL wins while Brian Elliott, who will watch from the press box, tries to find his game with video and on-ice work with goaltending coach Corey Hirsch.

"We know we’ve got to get Jaro and Brian going," said coach Ken Hitchcock of Allen’s strong play. "This just bought us some time."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 4:33 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Rome still has exalted place in Canucks' history

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Aaron Rome was a popular player when he left the Vancouver Canucks and signed with the Dallas Stars last summer.

The defenseman returned as a franchise leader Friday.

As Rome walked down a hallway that became familiar during three seasons in Vancouver, he couldn't help but notice his name on the wall where the Canucks honor past team award winners. Atop each category, from all-stars and MVPs, to most exciting player and unsung hero, was a piece of white hockey tape with Rome’s full name scribbled across it.

Rome, who often made headlines in Vancouver for getting picked to play ahead of more established, higher-paid players, took it in stride.

"Nothing new," Rome said. "It's all good fun. Guys like to have fun here and I had a lot of fun in the three years I was here."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 4:16 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jagr celebrates birthday where NHL career started

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Jaromir Jagr celebrated his 41st birthday Friday in the city where his NHL career started, giving the Dallas Stars forward a chance to reflect on being drafted almost 23 years ago.

The Pittsburgh Penguins picked Jagr with the fifth choice of the 1990 NHL Draft, which was held at BC Place, across the street from where he will play against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.

A lot has changed since then, including the building the Canucks play in, as well as five players who will play with and against him Friday who hadn't been born when Jagr was drafted.

Evidently Jagr's opinion of himself has changed too.

"Back then I never thought I am going to play NHL," he said. "I didn't think I am good enough to play NHL and I was wondering why the Pittsburgh Penguins draft me. I was very thin, not very strong."

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Quote of the Day

I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning
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