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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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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 4:25 PM

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

Canucks making one change to lineup

The Vancouver Canucks will make one lineup change after having a six-game winning streak snapped, with Roberto Luongo back in goal after Cory Schneider struggled in Vancouver's 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars Friday.

While that will only increase the glare of an already bright spotlight on the Canucks' rotating goalie situation, Luongo is the first to pass the credit for his NHL-leading 1.45-goals against average to the tight defensive play in front of him.

Going into the Canucks' game against the St. Louis Blues Sunday night, Vancouver leads the NHL with just 14 goals against while playing five-on-five. Four of those came Friday in a blown-lead loss to the Stars, and that included two Schneider would admittedly want back. Up until that game, though, Luongo said this is as tight as the Canucks have played in his six-plus seasons here.

"It's not just us goalies and the D, it's the forwards too, coming back, putting pressure on guys, making sure they don't have the time and space to make plays," Luongo said. "It all starts with back pressure – we've barely given up any odd-man rushes. If you eliminate that from the game we already have a big jumpstart on other teams. After that just make sure we play our system 5-on-5 and don't give up much."

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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 4:00 PM

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

Luongo to start for Canucks

Vancouver, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks will make just one lineup change two days after having a six-game win streak snapped, with Roberto Luongo back in goal after Cory Schneider struggled in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

That change will only increase the glare of an already bright spotlight on the Canucks' rotating goalie situation. But Luongo is the first person to credit the team in front of him for his NHL-leading 1.45 goals-against average.

Going into Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver leads the NHL with just 14 goals allowed while playing five-on-five. Four of those came Friday night, when they blew a 3-1 lead mid-way through the game. The Stars scored three unanswered goals to win that game, including two Schneider would likely want back. Despite the musical chairs in the Vancouver crease, Luongo insists this is as sound the Canucks have played defensively in his six-plus seasons here.

“It’s not just us goalies and the D, it's the forwards too. Coming back, putting pressure on guys, making sure they don’t have the time and space to make plays,” Luongo said. “It all starts with back pressure – we’ve barely given up any odd-man rushes. If you eliminate that from the game we already have a big jumpstart on other teams.”

Vancouver allowed just six goals during their six-game win streak, which coincided with Alain Vigneault's decision to break up his top defensive pairing of Jason Garrison and Alexander Edler, who is playing his first full season as a left shot on the right side. The Vancouver defense has been mostly airtight since the change.

“It’s an extremely tight team and we have close support, especially in our end and that’s been good to get out of our end," Garrison said. "You have quick, easy passes and everyone moves as a five-man unit.”

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Posted On Sunday, 02.17.2013 / 3:41 PM

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

Blues' Halak ready, but Allen remains in net

VANCOUVER -- Goalie Jaroslav Halak is ready to return to the St. Louis Blues’ net.

Jake Allen’s strong play means the Blues don’t have to rush him back into a game.

After winning his first two NHL starts, Allen will be in goal for a third-straight game Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Halak, though, told NHL.com after the morning skate he will back up for the first time since hurting his groin in a Feb. 1 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Halak was set to start Feb. 11 against the Los Angeles Kings, but tweaked the groin in the pre-game warm ups.

"I’m going to back up tonight," Halak said.

Allen earned the chance to build off his first two NHL wins while Brian Elliott, who will watch from the press box, tries to find his game with video and on-ice work with goaltending coach Corey Hirsch.

"We know we’ve got to get Jaro and Brian going," said coach Ken Hitchcock of Allen’s strong play. "This just bought us some time."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 4:33 PM

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

Rome still has exalted place in Canucks' history

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Aaron Rome was a popular player when he left the Vancouver Canucks and signed with the Dallas Stars last summer.

The defenseman returned as a franchise leader Friday.

As Rome walked down a hallway that became familiar during three seasons in Vancouver, he couldn't help but notice his name on the wall where the Canucks honor past team award winners. Atop each category, from all-stars and MVPs, to most exciting player and unsung hero, was a piece of white hockey tape with Rome’s full name scribbled across it.

Rome, who often made headlines in Vancouver for getting picked to play ahead of more established, higher-paid players, took it in stride.

"Nothing new," Rome said. "It's all good fun. Guys like to have fun here and I had a lot of fun in the three years I was here."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 4:16 PM

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

Jagr celebrates birthday where NHL career started

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Jaromir Jagr celebrated his 41st birthday Friday in the city where his NHL career started, giving the Dallas Stars forward a chance to reflect on being drafted almost 23 years ago.

The Pittsburgh Penguins picked Jagr with the fifth choice of the 1990 NHL Draft, which was held at BC Place, across the street from where he will play against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.

A lot has changed since then, including the building the Canucks play in, as well as five players who will play with and against him Friday who hadn't been born when Jagr was drafted.

Evidently Jagr's opinion of himself has changed too.

"Back then I never thought I am going to play NHL," he said. "I didn't think I am good enough to play NHL and I was wondering why the Pittsburgh Penguins draft me. I was very thin, not very strong."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 2:48 PM

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

Coin flip puts Kesler in Canucks' lineup

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- This time Ryan Kesler left no doubt he was back.

After being evasive and playing coy following his first full practice the day before, the Vancouver Canucks' Selke Trophy-winning center declared himself ready to return Friday night against the visiting Dallas Stars. Kesler hasn't played in almost 10 months after undergoing shoulder surgery in May then needing a wrist operation in June.

"I flipped AV's coin out there on the ice and it said I was, so I think I'll be playing," Kelser said, joking in reference to coach Alain Vigneault's ongoing gag about using a coin to choose his starting goalie. "It's been a long road, so for it to finally be here is pretty exciting."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 7:21 PM

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

Schneider gets his turn in Canucks' net

Cory Schneider isn't worried about figuring out the goaltending decisions of Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who continues to joke about picking his starter each game based on a coin flip.

Schneider is focused only on the fact the coin flip landed on him for Friday's game against the visiting Dallas Stars.

He expects there will be a lot more flip-flopping as the upcoming schedule gets busier.

"I don't think there's much to figure out," Schneider said of getting the start after Roberto Luongo made 25 saves in a 2-1 win against Minnesota on Tuesday. "We are going to be pretty busy here the next six weeks, so I don't think it's going to be a lot of rhyme or reason. It's just going to be playing a guy who is playing well and try to share the load so if the team is maybe tired the guy in net will be fresh and be the difference."

Both Luongo and Schneider have been just that throughout a six-game win streak.

Luongo won the first three amid a stretch of four straight starts before Schneider took over for back-to-back wins of his own, giving up just one goal each time. Luongo was back in goal against Minnesota, but will watch Schneider play against the Stars.

Statistically, Luongo is better overall with a .943 save percentage and 1.45 goals-against average that ranks first in the NHL. But after since an opening-night face plant as the new would-be No.1 that saw him pulled allowing after five goals on 14 shots, Schneider has been just as good, posting a .946 save percentage while winning four of five starts.

All of which makes Vigneault's coin flip a no-lose bet.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 7:17 PM

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

Canucks lose Malhotra for season, career in jeopardy

VANCOUVER – Celebration over Ryan Kesler's impending return the lineup was muted in the Vancouver Canucks locker room Thursday as players learned they had lost veteran Manny Malhotra for the season.

About the same time Kesler was creating a buzz with a regular shift in practice, the team issued a press release announcing Malhotra had been placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. The popular 32-year-old center's season – and possibly his career – is over because of a vision-threatening eye injury suffered almost two years ago.

Manny Malhotra
Center - VAN
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 2 | +/-: -3
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said he made the decision out of concerns for Malhotra's health, and that Malhotra was risking further injury by continuing to play with limited vision in his left eye.

"I wouldn't put anybody in a position where if I was uncomfortable with their ability to protect themselves or ability to function out on the ice and be at a higher risk than normal," Gillis said. "Particularly in today's game, where it is so fast, the players are so big that even someone not trying to hurt him or injure him, an innocent collision could be really damaging if you don't know or you are unaware."

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