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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 12:29 PM

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

Canucks not worried about recent slow starts

The Canucks aren’t worried about starts Saturday against the Sharks – their own or a rare 1 p.m. local time at home.

Vancouver spent most of the last two first periods being badly outshot – 10-3 in the opening period of a 4-2 loss to Anaheim on Sunday, and 15-0 in the early stages of a 3-2 shootout loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, surrendering more than a half-dozen odd-man rushes to the Kings in the first eight minutes alone.

Coach Alain Vigneault correctly pointed out the Canucks scored first in 10 straight games before their recent letdowns out of the gate, which came on the heels of a draining Eastern road trip. Having San Jose in town also helps, given a rivalry that heated up in the Western Conference finals last season.

“I would safely say the last two starts are blips on the radar,” Vigneault said. “This group prepares themselves really well, they get ready to play, as prior games showed. … San Jose is coming in here, one of the top teams in the League, they are always competitive and real tight games that could probably go one way or another so I expect another hard fought battle and I expect my guys to be ready for it.”

That includes starting goalie Roberto Luongo, who was the only reason the Kings didn’t run away with the game early Tuesday. A creature of habit who often takes part in game-day skates even when most of his teammates are given them off, Luongo suffered a rare groin injury during an early afternoon game in Pittsburgh way back in 2008, and is still answering questions about whenever the Canucks have an early start time.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of times people remember what happened a long time ago and that kind of sticks with you,” said Luongo, who never did link the injury, suffered stretching for a quick redirection that caught him moving the wrong way, with not going through his normal game-day routine. “I’m comfortable with afternoon games, I’ve played major ones since in the Olympics and one against the Sharks (in the playoffs) last year.”

As for not being able to go through his normal morning-skate warm up, Luongo, who has been known to show up early morning to take shots on the rare occasions the Canucks have a 4 p.m. start, said he’s adjusted to going without.

“Over the years you kind of develop a routine for different times,” he said. “I don’t mind afternoon games any more. You just get up, eat breakfast and come to the rink so you don’t have time to think about it too much and sometimes that’s a good thing.” 
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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Salo skates for Canucks, Tanev to play against banged-up Sharks

Veteran Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo was back at practice Friday and taking contact for the first time since a experiencing a concussion as the result of Brad Marchand’s low hit in Boston on Jan. 7, but he won’t play Saturday in a matinee against San Jose.

Instead, second-year pro Chris Tanev will make the rare jump from the American Hockey League to a top-4 spot, taking Salo’s spot alongside All-Star Alexander Edler on the second pairing. It’s a jump Tanev earned with his poise during 29 games last season as a rookie just two years removed from Tier-2 junior and after only had one season of college hockey.

Part of it is being a right-shot and comfortable on the right side, something none of the Canucks’ left-shot defensemen that took a turn in Salo’s spot were able to demonstrate.

“Nobody else that’s here has taken the bull by the horns in Sami’s absence and said my play will keep me in that spot,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ve tried a number of guys, and not that they’ve played bad, but they haven’t played to that ice time. That ice time gets obviously more minutes so we’ll try Chris and see what he can do.”

Tanev, whose offense has been limited in two pro seasons, won’t replace Salo on the top powe- play unit – forward Alexandre Burrows is back there for now – but should get the bulk of action five-on-five.

David Booth was demoted to the third line for the third period Tuesday and scored the tying goal there in a shootout loss to Los Angeles, but the Canucks see enough promise from the “American Express” combination with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins to put it back together Saturday.

With Salo still out and Tanev called up, Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer will both be healthy scratches against the Sharks, with Aaron Rome and Keith Ballard – neither of whom prefers playing the right side -- together on the third pairing.

CANUCKS

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Chris HigginsRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Mason RaymondCody HodgsonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraMaxim LapierreDale Weise

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler – Chris Tanev
Keith BallardAaron Rome
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal for a fourth straight game. Cory Schneider backs him up.

San Jose practiced at home before flying north Friday afternoon, and there were no game-day skates with the 1 p.m. local start time, so there are no guarantees when forecasting a lineup hit hard by injuries of late.

The latest was to rookie Tommy Wingels in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on Thursday night. The upper-body injury is expected to keep him out through the All Star break, and is a tough blow after he earned a top-line forward spot with Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe already out of the lineup and on injured reserve.

The good news is Andrew Desjardins was back Thursday after clearing concussion protocol to center the fourth line against the Senators. And based on reports out of San Jose’s practice, Desjardins should at least be one player to get a look in Wingels’ spot alongside the two Joes – Thornton and Pavelski.

It looks like John McCarthy will take Desjardins' place on the fourth line. McCarthy was reportedly recalled and expected to join the team in Vancouver. He leads Worcester with 27 points (11 goals), but has just four points in 41 games for the Sharks in the past two seasons.

San Jose does have an extra body in defenseman Jason Demers, who came out of the lineup when Colin White was activated from the injured list Thursday. Jim Vandermeer is also getting close to returning after missing 20 games with an upper-body injury.

SHARKS

Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterAndrew Murray-John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun
 
Antti Niemi is expected to start, with Thomas Greiss backing up. Antero Niittymaki is expected to make another conditioning-stint start in Worcester after stopping 23 shots in a 3-2 loss to Providence on Friday.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 5:44 PM

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

Tanev happy to be back in the fold with Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Welcome back to the NHL, Christopher Tanev.

Enjoy the bag skate.

OK, so the Canucks' hour-long practice on Thursday wasn't quite that bad, but after apathetic starts led to two-straight losses that were followed by a day off, there was a lot of hard, conditioning skating and battle drills when the players returned to the rink.

None of which was enough to wipe the smile off Tanev's face, not after being called up from Chicago of the American Hockey League the night before and dropped into a top-four pairing with All-Star Game-bound Alexander Edler.

"Got in last night for a tough practice today, but happy to be here," Tanev said with a sheepish grin.

It's a phrase Tanev repeated several times during a five-minute session with the media. The 22-year-old also admitted he was "a little" surprised to get called up to a Canucks team already carrying seven healthy defensemen. But with Sami Salo still out because of a concussion after a low hit Jan. 7 from Boston's Brad Marchand, they are short on defenders comfortable playing the right side -- hence the recall of the right-shot Tanev.

The inability to replace Salo on the right side of a second pairing with Edler has been a big part of the sloppy defensive zone coverage and turnovers in transition, leading to lopsided shot totals and grade-A scoring chances against.

"We felt bringing up a right-handed defensemen at this time would help our puck-moving ability," coach Alain Vigneault said. "A lot of times, left-handed defensemen on the right side, it's tough to see the opening, the cross-ice seams, because you gotta turn and move. Some guys are comfortable doing it. Some guys have played the off side all their lives. Right now we're having trouble with our puck movement."

The departed Christian Ehrhoff was a left-shot defensemen comfortable on the right side. But neither Keith Ballard nor Aaron Rome looked good on the right side of Edler, and Tanev played well enough on that side on a third pairing as a rookie last season to deserve a look.

"We need to get a little bit better chemistry there," Vigneault said. "I'm looking for a little better stability with the puck. … Chris is a solid puck mover with a lot of confidence and makes really good reads."

Tanev was just two years removed from tier-2 junior, and coming off one season of college hockey at the Rochester Institute of Technology when the Canucks signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2010. But he impressed enough in 29 regular season games last year to earn five more in the playoffs, including three in the Stanley Cup Final, demonstrating so much poise and patience with the puck that fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa once quipped that he could "play the game with a cigarette in his mouth."

Tanev struggled in three games to start this season, though, and with eight other NHL-proven defenders on the roster -- and a contract and games-played status that made him the only one that didn't require waivers -- was sent to the AHL to get more playing time and continue developing.

"I was a little disappointed, but you move on fairly quickly when you gotta play hockey the next day," said Tanev, who got hurt his first game with Chicago and missed a month. "Obviously I wanted to stay, but I'm happy to be here now and trying to take advantage of this opportunity."

Tanev has just a single assist in 32 NHL games, and had 12 assists but no goals in 25 AHL games this season despite increased special teams opportunities, so he won't replace Salo's 100-mile-an-hour point shot on the first unit power play. But he's also yet to take a penalty in the NHL, and has just 22 minutes in two AHL seasons, so Tanev may have the best chance to mimic the veteran's calm, steadying influence.

"Try to make smart plays and be a smart player and move the puck," Tanev said. "It's definitely more comfortable than last year. I'm not going to try and force things. There are enough guys in this room that know how to score. But if opportunity is there I want to contribute in that way.”

That opportunity may only exist for the two remaining games before the All-Star break, as Salo skated on his own for a second straight day Thursday. But if Tanev can help get the puck out of Vancouver's end as easily as he did late last season, there will be plenty more chances to impress, likely even this season and into the playoffs.

"One of our strongest assets is our transition, defense to offense," Vigneault said.

It's one of Tanev's strengths, too.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 7:47 PM

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

Vigneault downplays any rift with Kesler

VANCOUVER -- Alain Vigneault didn't want any part in extending a perceived spat with Ryan Kesler.

"Yes he is," Vigneault responded with a chuckle Tuesday morning when asked if his Selke Trophy-winning second-line center would be in the lineup against the Los Angeles Kings later that night.

Asked what he made of the attention given the media-driven back-and-forth between himself and Kesler, Vigneault added, "I think we all need to move on here."

It shouldn't be hard to do given how little there was to the situation.

Asked after Sunday's miserable 4-2 loss to Anaheim what was missing in Kesler's game, the coach offered a 42-second, 88-word response stressing the center's importance to the team, ending it by saying it wasn't "the right thing to do" to point fingers at Kesler on a night after the entire team played so poorly. But only the middle part about using "players around him a little but more" made it back to Kesler's locker the following day.

Kesler bristled when asked when about the coach saying he needed to do so.

"Utilize my players?" Kesler, who didn't talk Tuesday, retorted on Monday, seemingly surprised by the question. "Obviously, I don't know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it. I'm going to play my game, the thing that's made me successful. I know what that is and if he wants to come talk to me, he's more than welcome."

The response, which was abrasive even by the often-prickly Kesler's standards, sparked talk of a rift between player and coach. But after missing training camp and the first five games of the season before returning - likely too soon, he admits now - from offseason hip surgery, Kesler has 12 goals and 31 points in 41 games, well off the career-best 41 goals he scored last season. He only has one assist - and two goals - while playing with a variety of wingers the last eight games.

So frustration may have played a role, according to Vigneault, who also carefully pointed out Monday that several other top Canucks have struggled of late.

"In Ryan's case what happens is he has shown that high, high-end level at really critical times the type of player he can be," Vigneault said. "And that's a really tough thing to be able to maintain in an 82-game schedule. Everybody is looking to Ryan to do that on a consistent basis. That's not easy for any player to do. Ryan being the competitive individual that he is will always try to achieve that standard. It's not easy so he's working on trying to get himself there and get himself there on that consistent basis."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Goal support (or lack thereof) no concern to Quick

VANCOUVER -- Jonathan Quick's nose started bleeding during the national anthem before the Kings' game in Edmonton Sunday. It's one of the few times all season he's been leaky.

"Out of respect for the anthem you don't skate over to the bench right when it happens," Quick, who played the first period with gauze stuffed up his nose and then changed out of the blood-stained jersey at the intermission, said after the morning skate Tuesday in Vancouver. "You just kind of try not to leak too much during the anthem."

Quick, who blamed dry weather for the blood, said the gauze didn't bug him.

Not much has this season.

Quick is already a worthy All-Star selection, and a strong midseason Vezina Trophy candidate in just his fifth NHL season. Imagine if he had more offensive support.

As impressive as Quick's overall statistics look -- he leads the League in shutouts with six, and is fifth in save percentage at .933 and third in goals-against average at 1.95 -- his record would undoubtedly be a lot better than 19-11-8 if the Kings weren't also the lowest-scoring team in the NHL with a 2.15 goals-per-game average. 

Quick's physical tools have always been as obvious as the explosive cross-crease pushes and full-split saves that turn up on highlight reels around the League. But the fact he isn't bothered by the lack of support -- including a total of just 14 goals scored in his 11 regulation defeats -- says a lot about his mental development.

"Some goaltenders might go into every game thinking, 'I have to make 35, 40 saves to win,'" Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. "I don't think he even thinks about us scoring or not scoring. It's just the way he is. I know for a fact he doesn't think that way."

It's not an easy approach to achieve for some goalies. Almost all will tell you they can't afford to think about it, but getting to a point where they don't can be a process.

"Absolutely," Quick said. "Maybe a guy in their first or second year may think about it a little bit more than some guys in their 10th year, and that's just the natural progression of being a goalie in this League and just learning the game a little bit more."

Like a PGA Tour player talking about taking it one-shot-at-a-time and trying not to think too far ahead or about their score, it all starts with the first save for Quick.

"You can't go in thinking about it," he said. "You just go in trying to make the first save and then you worry about making the second save. That's personally how I prepare for each game. Whatever the score is, you just have to make the next save. If you let it get to you, maybe it could, but I feel like your job is you just gotta stop the puck whether you are up 5-0 or down 5-0, just make the next save. You have to look at it as a challenge."

It's one the Kings, who are 7-1-5 since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, are hoping to make less challenging. They scored a whopping 13 goals over three games before losing 2-1 in overtime against the Oilers on Sunday. Not that Quick noticed.

"He's been the man for us, especially this year the way the scoring is going," Stoll said. "Hopefully he can keep it going. Hopefully we can help him out a little bit more."

As for Sutter, who got many similar performances from Miikka Kiprusoff behind a goal-challenged Flames team during his time in Calgary, he wasn't overly impressed.

"I wouldn't call it a challenge, I didn't know the best goalies in the NHL were supposed to give up more than two goals a game," said Sutter, rightly pointing out the Kings don't give up a lot of great chances. "I'm not a goalie and I've never been. I couldn't tell you. There are 10 guys that are aces in this League and that's what they do, right?"

Which in its own way says a lot about how far Quick has come.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 3:34 PM

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

Canucks home for a rest, but can't afford to relax

VANCOUVER -- The Canucks are happy to be home after a four-game road trip, and eager for a more relaxed stretch of their schedule after playing 22 games over 46 days, including two separate swings through the Eastern Conference since the start of December.

"It was tough and we were on the road a lot during that stretch, so that takes a toll," Daniel Sedin said. "We're used to that, so to some degree we're not as affected by it, but at the same time when you get home and get a few days off, I think you realize you need it."

Vancouver now hopes to recharge during a stretch that, starting with Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, will see them play just three games -- all at home -- over the next two weeks, including the five-day NHL All-Star break next weekend.

"I think it will be good for us to get some home time and some time away from hockey," continued Daniel, who, along with twin brother Henrik, defenseman Alexander Edler and rookie Cody Hodgson, will have the break shortened by participating in the All-Star Game in Ottawa. "It's been really hectic pretty much December until now. It will be good for us to get some practice and even some time in the gym, too, so it will be good."

But the players stressed a relaxed schedule didn't mean they could relax, a point proven by Sunday's lackluster, mistake-filled loss to Anaheim.

"We're obviously going to get some days off here, but when we practice we have to be sharp and when we're playing we have to make sure we're not coming out sloppy," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It's a fine balance, but it's something you need over the course of an 82-game schedule."

As for claims the Canucks have been guilty of overlooking lesser opponents since an emotionally-charged Stanley Cup Final rematch with Boston back on Jan. 7, they won't have that excuse with a rematch of the Western Conference Finals against San Jose next up Saturday. And games against archrival Chicago and Detroit right after the All-Star break should also have their full attention.

"There are important games in the next couple weeks that we have to take care of," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "It gives us a chance to work on some stuff in practice. We always want to keep improving as a team and there's no better time to work on things."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Projected lineups for Canucks, Kings

Here's how the lineups could look when the Vancouver Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Rogers Arena:

CANUCKS
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had his forward lines in a blender by the end of Sunday's lackluster 4-2 loss to Anaheim, a game in which his team produced two even-strength shots the first 35 minutes. Expect them to be back the way they started against the Kings Tuesday.

That includes the reunited second unit -- the American Express line -- of David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, whose second-unit power play assist against the Ducks was his first point in eight games since coming back from a second blood infection.

"In Chris' case he'd be the first one to tell you that energy-wise, since his second infection, he doesn't feel quite the same," said Vigneault, adding the pills Higgins continues to take daily are taxing his energy levels. "We've got to work with him here and try to get him back to that same energy level where he was one of our most effective players."

Vigneault said it will also take time for Booth, who missed almost six weeks with a knee injury, to get back to top speed, but saw enough promise from the line before Booth's early December injury to give the trio an extended look together. The rest of the lines are also expected to remain intact:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Things will be different on the back end, where it's clear the Canucks miss the calming presence of veteran Sami Salo, who will miss a fifth game Tuesday after suffering a concussion when flipped by a low hit from Boston's Brad Marchand back on Jan. 7.

Vigneault said Sunday that Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer are all competing for two spots on the third pairing -- and confirmed Tuesday morning that Alberts will come out of the press box to replace Sulzer in the lineup against LA after Ballard sat out the previous game in St. Louis -- but after a minus-3 outing for Aaron Rome, the bigger problem is a fit alongside Salo's usual partner, Alexander Edler.

As for Salo, he still hasn't skated since the contentious hit, which cost Marchand a five-game suspension, but Vigneault said he talked to him Tuesday and "he is feeling much better and starting the concussion protocols so everything is on the right track."

There was no timeline for a return, but also little question the coach would like to see Salo back soon: Vancouver is 3-5-0 without the oft-injured 37-year-old Finn, and 25-10-3 with him, but more telling are the defensive scrambles and miscues without him.

"We've all said this many, many times -- and the proof is in the stats -- that whenever Sami is in the lineup, we seem to be such a composed team," Vigneault said. "Our breakouts seem to be cleaner and quicker. He's a very important part of our mix. When he's in there, he makes a huge difference to our group."

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Aaron Rome
Andrew Alberts - Keith Ballard

Roberto Luongo is back in goal for a third straight game. Cory Schneider backs him up.

KINGS
Leading-scorer and captain Anze Kopitar was given a rare day off Monday in Vancouver, which always raises eyebrows given his workhorse, former ironman status with the Kings. But after taking a beating in back-to-back games against Calgary and Edmonton the previous two nights, it was understandable and easy to buy the "maintenance day" explanation offered up by assistant coach John Stevens, who ran things after head coach Daryl Sutter stayed an extra day in Alberta to attend to some to some family matters.

Sure enough Kopitar and Sutter were back on the ice Tuesday to prepare for the Canucks, so the roster is expected to remain intact as Los Angeles tries to go 2-0-1 as they wrap up a tough Western Canadian road trip with their third game in four nights:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 5:31 PM

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

Ducks improve with short passes, fewer interceptions

With the NFL playoffs in full swing Sunday it was fitting Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau used a gridiron analogy to explain the Ducks improving defense.

Anaheim didn't give up a goal in regulation the last two games – the only goal was in overtime of a 1-0 loss in Calgary – and just nine during a 4-0-1 streak, more than a goal-a-game less than a season average of 3.07 that ranks near the bottom of the NHL.

Boudreau, who took over as head coach Nov. 29 and immediately noticed giveaways through the middle of the ice were a problem, said it starts with the Anaheim forwards coming back. That allows the Ducks' defensemen to make shorter breakout passes, thus reducing risk of interception.

"We call them shares," Boudreau said. "We're bringing everybody back so you don't need to make the long passes anymore. Teams are too good now. They see it and they're all like free safeties back there, they can step up and intercept them and when you intercept them in the middle of the ice it's already a scoring position. The shorter the pass, the easier the pass, and the easier the play, the less chance of a mistake."

Boudreau said it's not surprising the buy-in from forwards improved when No.1 goalie Jonas Hiller was hurt four games ago. With backup Dan Ellis already out, Iiro Tarkki won in relief and call-up Jeff Deslauriers won his start before Hiller returned to backstop the last two games on back-to-back nights.

"It's a coincidence but it is a fact," Boudreau said. "When you're bringing up goalies you know you have to tighten up because your No.1 goalie isn't in there."

Ryan Getzlaf, who had four assists in a 5-0 win in Edmonton on Friday, said it helps at both ends.

"When you start doing the right things defensively, things start clicking offensively," he said.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 4:13 PM

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

Surging Ducks get stiffest test of unlikely comeback

Teemu Selanne is trying to enjoy the Ducks current success.

Ryan Getzlaf wants to forget Anaheim's horrid start.

To continue doing so, they will have to continue their 4-0-1 run, built against teams not currently in the playoffs, against the Western Conference-leading Canucks in Vancouver Sunday night. It could be a measuring stick or a reality check.

"This is the best team of the lot we faced and if you ever wanted to measure yourself against a really good team, this would be the team you measure yourself against," said coach Bruce Boudreau, who was still behind the Washington Capitals bench for a 7-4 October loss in Vancouver, and in Anaheim for a 5-2 loss on Dec. 29.

"They toyed with us," Boudreau said of the loss in Anaheim. "When you have the best defense, and the best offense, and the best power play and the best penalty killing it's pretty hard to defeat that. You look at guys being out of the lineup and they still throw six defenseman you would love to have on your team. They throw forwards out of the lineup and still have top-nine forwards you would love to have. Their depth is overwhelming."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was throwing similar bouquets back at a Ducks team featuring an "All-Star top line" of Getzlaf with Bobby Ryan and reigning MVP Corey Perry, an impressive all-Finnish second line of Selanne, Saku Koivu and Niklas Hagman, and a third line recently improved by the return of Jason Blake.

So how are the Ducks second-last in the west with a 14-22-7 record?

Getzlaf no longer wants to think about a stretch before this streak that included just five wins and a coaching change over 29 games and two months.

"Not anymore," said Getzlaf. "I spent a lot of time looking at it at the start of the year. It was a frustrating time and not what we wanted for sure."

As for the future, Anaheim would have to win 30 of their final 39 games to get to 95 points – and Dallas missed the playoffs last season with 95 points in the west.

Selanne, however, isn't ready to totally write off the season just yet.

Not with the talent around him.

"That's why this has been the hardest," Selanne, who leads the Ducks with 43 points at age 41, told NHL.com. "Because if I look around this dressing room and said ‘we have a bad team,' we have to live with it. But that's not the case. When you feel you have a good team, you have all the tools here and you're still not winning, that's most frustrating."

Now that they're winning, the frustration level is down – for now.

"We just fight as long as we have a chance and try to stay hot right now for a while to give us a chance and hopefully we can get back in the hunt," he continued. "Because the worst scenario would be the season is over in February -- that sounds terrible."
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Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 3:25 PM

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

Canucks welcome Booth back to the lineup

David Booth is back and the American Express line is together again in Vancouver.

Just don't expect them to come "charging" out of the gates.

Booth, out since Dec. 6 after a knee-on-knee hit that sprained his MCL and led to a four-game suspension for Colorado's Kevin Porter, talked cautiously about jumping back onto a line with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. The speedy trio combined for two key goals and eight points in their last full game together, and had been showing promising signs even before then, but Booth has now been out almost exactly as long as he's been with the Canucks.

"It is a little bit (like starting over)," said Booth, who was acquired in a trade with Florida on Oct. 22, and didn't find his groove in Vancouver until shortly before getting hurt.

After failing to score and recording just three assists his first 12 games of the season, including six with Florida before the trade, Booth recorded five goals and 10 points in his last 12 full games, and three goals and five points the last five, before getting hurt.

"It's always tough when you miss five, six weeks, so the best thing to do is kind of keep it simple at the start and not try to do too much," Booth said after Sunday's skate. "I'm playing with good players so if I just keep my game simple they'll help out a lot."

Head coach Alain Vigneault is hoping it works both ways. Higgins is pointless in six games since returning from a blood infection, and was dropped to the third line.

"Chris since coming back from the second infection, and Ryan the last couple of games, have not been as good as we all know they can be so maybe by putting them all together tonight can lead them to the right path," Vigneault said. "Obviously we all saw some real positive things when those three were together and we'll start that way tonight."

The positives typically included Booth using his speed effectively and going hard to the net. The latter is how he got hurt, and the former is the reason he waited a week after receiving medical clearance to return before pronouncing himself game ready.

"Skating is the number one part of my game so that's why I felt I just couldn't rush back," Booth said. "I gotta use my speed, and play the body and get to the net. … Reacting to game speeds is always different than practice. That will take time but I feel like the knee can handle that now. Before I really don't think it was ready."
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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday