Road-weary Canucks face one more challenge

Friday, 10.25.2013 / 1:53 AM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Logic dictates that the St. Louis Blues have the Vancouver Canucks right where they want them heading into their meeting at Scottrade Center on Friday night.

The Canucks will be playing for the second time in 24 hours and the third time in four nights. The Blues will be rested, having not played in a week.

The Canucks will be 60 minutes or more away from completing a two-week, seven-game road trip. The Blues have been waiting for them after spending a few off days together in Charleston, S.C., on a pre-arranged bonding trip.

The game has all the makings of a potential blowout. The Canucks know it -- but in a way, it's also serving as motivation for them.

"We're going to have a lot of excuses going for us, but [Friday] is when we show that we are a good team, a great team," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said after Vancouver beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout Thursday night at Prudential Center. "It would be easy for us to go in there [with excuses] on a back-to-back, being on the road for two weeks, but that's when we have to show up and play hard, play as a team.

"It makes it easier that we got the two points [Thursday night]."

The importance of those two points can't be overstated.

The Canucks were sluggish, sloppy and shorthanded up front with their forward group depleted from 11 to nine for the final 45 minutes. David Booth and Dale Weise sustained lower-body injuries in the first period and did not return. Jannik Hansen missed the game because he was back in Vancouver being examined for an upper-body injury sustained Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Alexandre Burrows (foot) and Jordan Schroeder (ankle) were already unavailable.

However, Daniel Sedin scored a game-tying goal in the second period and Roberto Luongo made 17 saves in the third, another in overtime and two more in the shootout to get Vancouver the two points so it could improve to 4-1-1 on the road trip.

Following the game, Vancouver recalled forwards Pascal Pelletier and Darren Archibald from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

"Some of the things that went through us with our injuries during the game, I'm really happy that we not only get the one, but the second point," coach John Tortorella said. "I don't think I would have paid for a minute of that game, but it's nice we came away with the two points."

Grinding out points is exactly what the Canucks have been doing on this trip.

They had to come from behind to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 before going into western New York and blanking the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0. The hiccups came in the next two games, a 4-3 shootout loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 3-1 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But the Canucks rebounded by beating the Islanders in a wild 5-4 overtime game and then sneaking out of Newark with two points thanks largely to Luongo and the struggling Devils.

The Blues present their final challenge on the long trip.

"There are tons of excuses," Ryan Kesler said. "We could mail it in, but we're not going to. We're going there to win a hockey game."

The road trip hasn't just elevated the Canucks up the Pacific Division standings; it has allowed them to grow closer as a team and to get to know the coaching staff a bit better.

The second part was of the utmost importance to Tortorella, who is still trying to show his players who he is and what he's all about so they have more to go on than the reputation that followed him to Vancouver.

Problems with some of his players reportedly helped lead to his departure from the New York Rangers. He's been known to be brash with players and curt with the media.

He's trying to change that perception so it doesn't invade his dressing room.

"The biggest thing I'm trying to battle is battle the perception because [the] perception out there of me is false," Tortorella said. "Some of the stuff that people like to put out there isn't all what it is. I'm really trying to show them who I am, but not so much me, how our coaching staff does our business because it's a whole new coaching staff. We want to try to get that on the table right away, and this trip has helped."

Henrik Sedin agrees.

"With a new coaching staff, to see guys on the road on off days, at the rink, playing at tough rinks, I think it's been a good trip for us," he said. "It helps that we've been winning, it makes it easy, but I think it was a good time for us to get away."

And now they can't wait to get home.

They're tired, beat up and injured. Families and girlfriends are waiting.

The Canucks have 60 minutes of hockey to play before they can board that plane bound for Vancouver, 60 minutes to find out how tough they are and how resilient they can be no matter who is in the lineup and how exhausted they are.

"Good teams find ways, you know what I'm saying," Luongo said. "We want to get in there, play our best game and try to win. That's what good teams do. Bad teams find excuses. Good teams find a way to win."

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