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48 Hours in Whistler

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The wide-eyed pups had their chance to shine, now it's time for the big dogs to strut their stuff.


Hockey season is indeed upon us as the Vancouver Canucks veterans reported to GM Place on Friday for pre-training camp medicals and testing, it was the first mandatory day of work for the veterans and most of them are glad it's behind them.

"It was good, it's another year down and I'm glad to have it over with," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "It was as tough as ever."

Bieksa and company were put through the yearly motions, they lifted, they cycled, they jumped and they flexed. Impressive results were the ultimate goal, but Bieksa, who appeared in only 34 games with the Canucks last season because of injury, said everyone generally tests well, so it becomes a matter of up showing each other.

"I think at this point for a lot of guys who have done it a couple times, it's more or less just pride. You see us kind of comparing scores and stuff like that and we're cheering each other on but we also want to beat one-another. I know it's like that for a bunch of us."

Bieksa was merely concerned with beating Willie Mitchell for the most part, others just wanted to improve on their personal results from years past. Either way the drills didn't seem to tire the players out too much, afterwards they had plenty to say about the current Canucks story lines.

STORY LINES

On the heels of Vancouver's weekend training camp in Whistler there are plenty of questions about offensive line combinations, especially the prospect of new acquisition Steve Bernier playing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

"We played against him the last few years, he's a player that we like what we see and we'll see if he's the guy or who it's going to be," assessed Henrik. "We've got seven games here until the season starts, so we've got time."

Henrik isn't worried about who will complete the Sedin-Sedin line, that will resolve itself in time, he also isn't concerned with the fact that altering Vancouver's defensive minded style of play may be easier said than done this season.

"I think Alain and the coaching staff have done a great job in the past years to play with the team that you have. They brought in a few new players here, but I don't think it's going to change drastically. We've still got the same goalie, we've still got the same defencemen, so that's how we've got to play."

"Of course we want to score a little bit more goals because it'll make it easier on our defence, but still I think we still have to focus on playing a good defensive game, that's how you go into the playoffs and that's how you win playoff games."

ROBERTO WORRIED ABOUT ROBERTO

Playing a solid game on defence is music to ears of netminder Roberto Luongo, he also knows the team needs to put more pucks in the net to make his life easier though. But heading into training camp he's concerned with Roberto and being prepared for the start of the season. The rest will all work itself out.

"I think it's more to get in a practice kind of groove, game flow, game drills and stuff like that," Luongo said. "We only have a couple of days and then the games start right away so we don't have much time for that. I think it's going to be, for me, making sure I start making some good reads on certain plays in practice and getting those game like situations down pat for me."

Luongo believes that despite Vancouver's training camp only being a brisk two-day affair, there will be plenty of time to get some good hockey in while getting reacquainted with the boys.

"Even though we're there two days, we're going to be by ourselves and we're going to get to spend a lot of time with each other and get to know each other a little more. There are a lot of new faces on the team so the next 48 hours will be entirely dedicated to getting a good feel for my new teammates and making sure we develop good chemistry together."

Luongo and the Sedins have the luxury of working on what they feel needs attention at camp, and maybe having a little fun on the ice between drills, they're obviously looking to impress but they'll be on the Canucks roster regardless how their showing in Whistler.

STEAL A JOB

Players like Jason Jaffray, on the other hand, must have their A-game with them starting now if they hope to get pencilled into the lineup.

"Most players have the mindset heading in to camp that they're coming in to steal a job and if you don't have that mindset, you're in the back seat before you even start," said Jaffray, who recorded six points (2-4-6) in 19 games with the Canucks last season.

"I'm coming in knowing that I might be a depth guy, but if I can have a good camp and open some eyes, there's a lot of new management up top, so if I have a good camp and score some goals, you never know, they might create a spot for me."

Putting the puck in the net this weekend is clearly Jaffs' top priority, that and proving he is a solid two-way player. NHL forwards need to be effective at both ends of the ice, he believes, so his defence will also be on display in Whistler.

"Obviously I want to provide offence as much as possible, but to play in the NHL you have to have a good definite two-way game and I think that's something that I proved last year. I can play on both sides of the puck and I can play all positions up front, so I think that I can be thrown into any offensive or defensive role, it's just a matter of time before I can prove that."

Jaffray and the rest of the Canucks hopefuls have this weekend to prove they belong; that's 2 days, 48 hours, 2,880 minutes or 172,800 seconds.

The clock is ticking.







  45 - Number of players who will be attending Training Camp in Whistler.

  14 - Number of players who are taking part in Canucks camp for the first time.

16 - Defencemen taking part in camp.

25 - Forwards looking to turn some heads in Whistler.

4 - Goaltenders with shutouts on their mind at camp.





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