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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Posted On Tuesday, 10.28.2014 / 4:49 PM

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

At the Rink: Hurricanes at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal doesn't want to hear about being in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes less than a month into the season.

As Staal prepared to return against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday after missing five games with an upper-body injury, he admitted it was upsetting to hear the winless Hurricanes already being linked to the 2015 NHL Draft lottery and a shot a McDavid as the consensus No. 1 pick.

"A little premature," Staal, who turns 30 on Wednesday, said after the morning skate. "Yeah it bothers me, but our record is 0-fer so it's not that surprising at the same time."

Getting Staal back should help the Hurricanes when they try to avoid a winless October and stop building on a franchise-worst 0-5-2 start under new coach Bill Peters.

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Posted On Sunday, 10.26.2014 / 3:29 PM

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

At the Rink: Capitals at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals play Sunday as two teams headed in opposite directions defensively under new coaches so far this season.

The Capitals come into Vancouver after a 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, and have held the opposition under 30 shots in all seven games under coach Barry Trotz. After finishing 27th and 28th in the NHL in shots allowed the past two seasons, Washington sits third in the League after giving up 23.7 shots per game, almost 10 fewer than their 33.5 shots against average last season.

"You can see the changes in the team," said Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who played his first six seasons under Trotz with the Nashville Predators. "They are checking really well, they are certainly focusing a lot on defense. I credit that to Barry because that's the type of game he preached in Nashville when I was there. He's a very detailed coach and he plays a tough system."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.18.2014 / 5:00 PM

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

At the Rink: Lightning at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is off to a great start this season as the NHL's top-scoring defenseman with seven points in his first four games. But the 6-foot-6 Swede knows he'll face a different challenge in his own end on Saturday night.

Countrymen Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are also off to a hot start on the Vancouver Canucks new top line with Radim Vrbata, and Hedman expects to see a lot of them on the top pairing.

Hedman is from the same hometown of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, and skated with the Sedin twins for a month before the season, but after watching them combine with Vrbata for six goals and 17 points in the first three games, he's not sure that familiarity will help much.

"They have a lot of tricks in their sleeves, so it's going to be a tough challenge," Hedman said. "You can see how they started the season, we have to make sure we stay on the right side of the puck and make sure we stay physical as much as we can on them."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.11.2014 / 5:22 PM

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

At the Rink: Oilers at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Radim Vrbata knows how important chemistry is for a line to have sustained success, and the Vancouver Canucks forward likes the early synergy he's found with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Vrbata followed up a promising preseason alongside the Sedins by scoring a goal as the new top line combined for four points in a 4-2 season-opening win against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Vrbata's decision to sign a two-year, $10-million free agent contract in Vancouver this summer in large part to play with the identical twins is looking prescient.

"The reason I came here was I thought they play a similar style I do and I thought it could work, and since the first day we seem to be on the same page," said Vrbata, who scored three goals in the preseason. "The patience, the vision, the skill, it's everything I thought and maybe even better."

If history is any indication, it could be better against the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA2).

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Posted On Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 3:49 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Boston College duo set to make Flames debut

VANCOUVER -- As teammates, linemates and close friends at Boston College, Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold say it will be easier to make their NHL debuts with the Calgary Flames on Sunday night because they have each other.

Gaudreau and Arnold signed with the Flames two days after their college season ended, and immediately after Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the NCAA on Friday. They will play their first game for the Flames on the same line against the Vancouver Canucks.

Gaudreau, who could have returned for another season at Boston College, said it was easier to sign with the Flames because Arnold was already doing the same.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 5:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Varlamov can set Avalanche single-season wins mark

VANCOUVER -- With the Central Division and home-ice advantage to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs still on the line, the Colorado Avalanche will start Vezina Trophy candidate Semyon Varlamov on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

With nothing left to play for, Vancouver will finally give goalie Jacob Markstrom his first start in a Canucks uniform, and his first in the NHL since late December.

In addition to possibly catching the St. Louis Blues, who are two points ahead in the Central, and securing at least second place in the division by moving four points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks with a win, Varlamov has a chance to break coach Patrick Roy's franchise record with his 41st win of the season.

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Quote of the Day

I mean, any of those 14 teams (in the lottery) it would have been an absolute honor. If I am selected by Edmonton it will be amazing, a dream come true. They have a lot of amazing young players there.

— Likely No. 1 pick Connor McDavid after the Oilers won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday