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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.

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."

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."

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).

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.

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.

Posted On Monday, 04.07.2014 / 5:10 PM

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

Ducks give Gibson first NHL start vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER -- If being 43 didn't make Teemu Selanne feel old enough already, his last game in Vancouver will be the first in the NHL for 20-year-old Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson.

Selanne, who plans to retire at the end of the season after 22 years in the NHL and hasn't played back-to-back games all season, made sure he'd get one more against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday when he sat out against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

"The Western Canada cities are where I have played the most in my career," said Selanne, who started with the Winnipeg Jets and played all 1,448 games with Western Conference teams. "And this has always been my favorite city, so I wanted to play one more."

Posted On Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 4:10 PM

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

Doughty out for Kings against Canucks; Sedin in

VANCOUVER -- The Los Angeles Kings will not have defenseman Drew Doughty in the lineup Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, who will have captain Henrik Sedin.

Doughty, the Kings' ice-time leader, sustained a shoulder injury against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and didn't join his teammates for a second straight day Saturday.

"Day-to-day," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We don't play until Wednesday and we just finished 10 [games] in 17 [days], so we'll try and get everybody ready for Wednesday."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 4:23 PM

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

Lack to start for Canucks against Rangers

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks rookie goalie Eddie Lack never has met fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, but he long has admired the New York Rangers star goaltender.

Lack will face Lundqvist for the first time Tuesday (10 p.m. ET, TSN), but wasn't yet sure if he'd speak up while they are stretching at the red line during pregame warm-ups.

"He's a guy I have been looking up to for almost 10 years now and I've been looking forward to this a while," Lack said of Lundqvist, who will be back in goal for the Rangers after serving as the backup Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. "It's a great moment for me."

There are similarities between Lack and Lundqvist in terms how they play deeper in their crease and minimize their movements. Lack, who is making his 17th straight start, cited Lundqvist among a handful of goalies he watches closely to find things he can improve in his game.

Posted On Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 4:17 PM

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

Canucks' Bieksa planning to play through injury

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa isn't ready to let a leg injury keep him out of the lineup with the season still hanging in the balance against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Bieksa played two shifts after a hit left him limping off the ice late in the second period of a 3-2 overtime loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, and the Canucks called up rookie defenseman Frank Corrado from the American Hockey League on Friday.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see Bieksa taking part in the morning skate Saturday, including time on the top power play unit. He will be a game-time decision, but hinted strongly he plans to play.

"If there's a chance I can play, I will," Bieksa said. "We'll see how it feels later, but I got through the skate OK, and this time of the year there is a lot of guys playing injured. So if you can play, you play."

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