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Posted On Saturday, 12.20.2014 / 4:10 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flames at Canucks

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will try to end long slumps that are threatening to derail surprising starts when they face each other at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

Calgary’s 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday was its seventh straight in regulation, a skid that has dropped the Flames outside the Western Conference cutoff for the Stanley Cup Playoffs following an impressive, but unexpected, 17-8-2 start to the season.

Vancouver is winless in five games and facing a similar drop after an equally unforeseen 18-7-1 start and is two points ahead of the ninth-place Flames, though Calgary has played three more games.

Posted On Wednesday, 12.17.2014 / 5:25 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Stars at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff wasn't surprised to hear the Vancouver Canucks talking about tightening their defense after a 5-1 loss against the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Ruff has expressed similar concerns this season about his Stars, who enter play Wednesday allowing 3.48 goals per game, most in the League, as they start a three-game road trip in Vancouver on Wednesday.

"I watched their last game so I think that's an obvious statement," Ruff said of the Canucks. "When you see 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s and sometimes when you get caught being too aggressive and you don't have the cover, it can look pretty bad. But I think they have made a living so far being really aggressive and having their [defensemen] involved."

The focus in Vancouver now is finding a better balance between that attacking style without also giving up the odd-man rushes that have plagued them during a season-worst four-game losing streak (0-3-1).

Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 3:57 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Rangers at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has been praised for his consistency throughout his first two months on the job, sticking with his lineup through slumps and mistakes.

So it’s probably not a coincidence his first significant line juggling comes after the first three-game losing streak of the season.

Coming off a 0-2-1 finish to a seven-game road trip, Desjardins is dropping Radim Vrbata from the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and moving him down to a struggling second line centered by Nick Bonino. Rather than re-uniting Alexandre Burrows with the Sedins, however, Desjardins is moving Jannik Hansen up from the fourth line to the first, and dropping Chris Higgins from the second to fourth.

With Shawn Matthias playing on the third line after missing the past two games with a head injury, all four Vancouver lines will have a new look against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

"I don’t think it's shocking," captain Henrik Sedin said. "I wouldn't call it a wake-up call either. I don’t think the changes are major. It’s moving one player off each line pretty much and that’s no problem. It’s when you see changes after one period in each and every game and you never get any familiarity with guys, that’s when it's tough."

Posted On Tuesday, 11.25.2014 / 5:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Devils at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The timing of the announcement wasn't lost on 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks rookie center Bo Horvat.

As Horvat prepared to play his ninth NHL game against the goaltender he was traded for, Canucks coach Willie Desjardins told the team Horvat was staying for the season.

Desjardins came into the locker room before the morning skate and showed one bad clip featuring Horvat followed by a good one, and then asked Horvat which player he was going to be.

"I thankfully said the right one and he said, 'Well welcome to the NHL,'" Horvat said. "It was a special moment, something I'll never forget."

Posted On Sunday, 11.23.2014 / 7:55 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blackhawks at Canucks

VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin never envisioned playing 1,000 games in the NHL, let alone on the same team and with twin brother Henrik Sedin as a linemate.

It wasn't long after being picked second and third in the 1999 NHL Draft that the Sedin twins wondered if they would last more than a couple years. Their speed and strength were questioned and criticized their first few seasons, which Daniel said will make game 1,000 on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks feel that much sweeter.

"Early on it was tough for sure," Daniel said, "But looking back both me and Henrik are happy we went through those tough times because it makes you enjoy things a little more now."

Henrik played his 1,000th game in March, while Daniel was out with a leg injury. They will be in the lineup together at Rogers Arena on Sunday, when Daniel joins Henrik and former teammate Trevor Linden, who is now the team president, as the only three to play 1,000 games for the Canucks.

Posted On Thursday, 11.20.2014 / 5:33 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Ducks at Canucks

VANCOUVER – Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler is in the spotlight as he returns to play against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday for the first time since forcing a trade to Anaheim over the summer.

The Ducks, however, are more focused on the return of other players from illness and injury, and a return to winning on the ice.

While Vancouver fans prepare to welcome Kesler back with a likely mix of cheers and jeers, Anaheim welcomes defenseman Francois Beauchemin back after missing five games with the mumps and forward Devante Smith-Pelly, out three with an upper-body injury.

The Ducks, who also got top goal scorer Corey Perry back from the mumps two games ago, have picked up at least a point in six of the past seven games but only have one win (1-1-5).

Posted On Friday, 11.14.2014 / 5:16 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Coyotes at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- First-year Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata will return to the top line and power-play unit just in time to face his old team, the Arizona Coyotes, on Friday.

Vrbata said he never wanted to leave Arizona, but is more concerned with his own game than his old team.

"It's not so much about me proving something to them," said Vrbata, who missed the past two games with an undisclosed lower-body injury. "I left them on good terms."

Vrbata made it clear he preferred not to leave at all, saying he and the Coyotes talked about a contract extension before and during last season. He even circled back after becoming a free agent this summer before signing a two-year, $10-million contract with the Canucks.

"I was looking for the next best choice and it was Vancouver," he said.

Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 5:08 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Senators at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- It wasn't long ago that Curtis Lazar used to make the nearly four-hour drive from his hometown of Vernon, British Columbia, to watch the Vancouver Canucks play and dream of one day skating on the same ice.

The 19-year-old Ottawa Senators rookie will get to do it for real Tuesday.

"I was a diehard Canucks fan growing up," Lazar said. "The trips to Vancouver to watch the Canucks are close to my heart. I just tried to cherish that moment and the experience of coming here and it would be like, 'This is where I want to be, my dream is to play on this ice.'"

Lazar took a big step toward that dream when the Senators picked him 17th in the 2013 NHL Draft. After establishing new junior hockey career highs with 41 goals and 76 points for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League last season, Lazar made the Senators out of training camp.

Posted On Sunday, 11.02.2014 / 8:50 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Predators at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators may not recognize each other when they meet for the first time Sunday night, but they look a lot alike with new coaches.

Under Willie Desjardins, the Canucks are trying to push the tempo, forcing opponents to make mistakes with speed and rolling all four lines to keep players and the pace fresh.

That sounds a lot like what veteran forward Mike Fisher has seen from the Predators under new coach Peter Laviolette.

"We are aggressive, we forecheck and we're relentless on the puck and he really stresses that," said Fisher, who was one of three Predators to skate Sunday morning as he continues to rehab from offseason surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

Posted On Thursday, 10.30.2014 / 5:34 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canadiens at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks shut down center Manny Malhotra midway through the 2012-13 season citing concerns for his safety because of the lingering effects of a serious 2011 eye injury.

Malhotra returns Thursday as the Montreal Canadiens fourth-line center and the NHL faceoff leader at 63.6 percent.

So much for Malhotra's career being over; as the second-worst faceoff team in the League, the Canucks could still use him.

"When you have a guy like Manny in your lineup it really takes a lot pressure off," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "Penalty kill, end of games, if you have a guy like that who can win the faceoff clean and get it down the ice it takes 25 to 30 seconds off right away."

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I first met him when I was 19 years old and he coached me for 13 consecutive years. I don't know how many athletes who have had that pleasure. Al Arbour was a man that left us not only feeling like champions, but left us with a lot of great memories that we can carry on through life.

— Islanders Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin on former coach Al Arbour, who passed away Friday at the age of 82