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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 4:32 PM

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

Bieksa expects to return Thursday for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Kevin Bieksa isn't planning to ride in on a white horse, but the Vancouver Canucks are counting on a boost when the defenseman returns from a groin injury against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Despite being listed as a game-time decision, all signs at the morning skate pointed to Bieksa coming back after missing seven of the past eight games. After losing six of those seven without him (1-4-2), the Canucks will welcome him back with open arms.

"I don't think I am the savior," said Bieksa, who leads Vancouver's defense with five goals. "The answers are definitely in this room right now."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 5:50 PM

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

Kearns ready for Sharks' debut in his hometown

VANCOUVER -- This week just keeps getting better and better for Bracken Kearns.

First he got the call from the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, saying he'd been called up from the American Hockey League after veteran forward Martin Havlat was hurt on Saturday. Then he checked the schedule and saw the Sharks' next game was in his hometown of Vancouver against a Canucks team that his father, Dennis, played more than a decade for. Then he got put on San Jose's top line with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.

For a late bloomer with just five NHL games in eight professional seasons, it may even top playing his first NHL game with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 20, 2011.

"That was a big deal for me," Kearns said of his NHL debut, "But coming here and getting to play with Thornton and Couture, it's just incredible. I checked the schedule and I couldn't believe it, so I am pretty pumped."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 5:22 PM

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

Ballard back in Canucks lineup after being scratch

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Keith Ballard wasn’t happy watching the Vancouver Canucks' past two games from the press box as a healthy scratch, something that has happened more often than he’d like over his three seasons with the team.

Ballard does not, however, want to be traded out of Vancouver, speculation that began when his agent was quoted as planning to talk to the team. The beleaguered blueliner still prefers fighting for ice time on a good team to playing a lot more on a bad one, something he knows all too well from spending his first five NHL seasons out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes.

“First five years, I played 25 minutes, up by one, down by one, PP, PK, over the boards every other shift,” Ballard said. “We finished 26th, 27th, 29th, and whatever in the League, and it’s not fun. It’s fun playing a lot. It’s fun getting those opportunities. It’s fun taking the one-timer on the 5-on-3, but it [stinks] losing. Regardless of what happens here, or how long I’m here, I like it here because of that fact (it’s a winning team). It’s a good group.”

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 4:06 PM

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

Canucks' Bieksa to sit out vs. Sharks

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Kevin Bieksa remains out of the Vancouver Canucks lineup for a second straight game Tuesday after aggravating a groin injury in his return from the same injury Saturday.

Bieksa, who averages 21:32 of ice time and plays on the power play and penalty kill for the Canucks, missed two games before coming back to play against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. He finished that game, but did not play Sunday on the road against the Calgary Flames, and was not back on the ice for the game-day skate Tuesday morning ahead of Tuesday night's game against the San Jose Sharks.

"He's day to day," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Everybody that watched that game, he was quick, he was strong 1-on-1, and then towards the end of the game, one hit, one push, and he felt it again. He finished the game and didn't think anything of it. Next day [he] got up and was real stiff."

Bieksa is expected to join the team on a three-game road trip that starts Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here are the rest of the projected lines and defense pairings for Tuesday's game between the Sharks and Canucks at Rogers Arena:

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Posted On Saturday, 03.02.2013 / 5:16 PM

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

Schneider isn't blaming play on sharing Canucks' net

VANCOUVER -- When Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider sounded off on his own play after a 4-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, his frustration was attributed but others to him sharing the No. 1 job with Roberto Luongo.

Despite winning his previous start five days earlier against the Dallas Stars, Schneider sat and watched Luongo start consecutive games, earning the second by pitching a shutout in the first.

So when Schneider said he was "sick and tired of being an average goalie" after the loss to Phoenix, most also assumed he was sick and tired of not being able to get into any kind of a rhythm. As he prepared to play against Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, Schneider insisted to NHL.com that wasn't the case.

“I know people try to read between the lines and interpret things, but if you just read the words, exactly what I am saying is what I mean. It was self-analysis of the last four games," Schneider said. "I was just a little annoyed with myself. It has nothing to do with anything else."

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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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Quote of the Day

Hockey means everything to people here [Winnipeg]. They take their team's success to heart. We've had an incredible year and they've given us incredible support.

— Jets center Mathieu Perreault after losing to the Ducks in Game 3 of their playoff series on Monday