TIME TO VOTE
The NHL All-Star balloting kicked off a couple weeks ago and the votes are already pouring in.
Nobody's surprised that Scott Niedermayer, Nicklas Lidstrom, or Chris Pronger lead the pack among Western defencemen, but it might shock a few to see Rory Fitzpatrick in 12th spot as of Wednesday.
The only write-in vote to make a dent so far, and all because of a campaign started by 22-year-old Steve Schmid, of Auburn, N.Y. Schmid set up a website voteforrory.com that has unleashed an underground campaign and 31,310 votes for Fitzpatrick. The message boards, including canucks.com are buzzing with Rory-mania.
Fitzpatrick, ever the good sport, is soaking it up.
"It's kind of funny actually, there's no other way to comment on it, I guess. I'll just have fun with it and all the guys are having fun with it as you can see so just enjoy it and see what happens."
Within six hours, there were 6000 hits to the site and they had received 35,000 hits as of Thursday. There's definitely a lot of talk about the website and the campaign but Fitzpatrick only recently found out - from other people.
"My brother phoned me the other day and told me that he had got an email from a friend that came across the website and he got on it and called me. Every day since then I get a different phone call, a different email from friends back home or people around the league who are starting to see it."
"It's obviously getting bigger and bigger so that's how I heard about it. Markus came up to me yesterday and asked me about it so I'm basically just hearing things from other people."
The Canucks also enjoying the new-found publicity. The memorial "Vote For Rory" t-shirt - inspired by the Napoleon Dynamite movie - is already a hot item down at GM Place and is the gear of choice for trainers and players alike.
Apparently the shirts showed up mysteriously this morning but nobody's talking.
"I have no idea, you'll have to ask someone else," said Willie Mitchell when asked where they came from.
"That's being held secret right now so I'll have to investigate and see if I can come up with who did that," says Fitzpatrick.
The guys are all having a good time with it and everyone pitching in a vote or two to get Fitzpatrick to Dallas in January.
Teammates Mitchell, Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, and Alex Burrows are yet to vote but intend to show their support for Fitzpatrick through the campaign. But Josh Green may be one of his biggest supporters.
"It's great, everyone's got their t-shirt today, it's exciting. Hopefully he can get enough votes to get in. I haven't voted yet but it's the first thing I'm going to do when I get home, get on the internet and start voting. I don't know how many times you can vote but I'm going to be on it all night."
Green's excitement grew when he learned that he there's no limit to the number of times he can vote.
"It's unlimited? Then there's my day then," he says with a laugh.
Fitzpatrick won't be casting a ballot.
"I have enough trouble turning my computer on so I don't have time to make websites or anything else - but it's interesting." FARM CALLS
Jesse Schultz was re-assigned to the Manitoba Moose Friday morning after playing two games with the Canucks. Schultz played 9:32 in last night's game and had three shots.
"We wanted to have a look at Jesse and we thought in general he did alright but he needs to get a little bit busier on the ice," said Alain Vigneault. "We just decided to make a change there."
Centre Rick Rypien and left wing Tyler Bouck will join the Canucks against Colorado Saturday night. Vigneault has been vocal about his support for Rypien since training camp.
"Everybody's aware of how much I like what Rypien brings to a team, the energy and the feistyness and we've been waiting for a long time for him to be ready to come and play for us. He's not 100 percent right now but he's close to it. He brings an element that I feel you need to have in a lineup."
Although Vigneault admits he doesn't know too much about Bouck, but he's liked what he's seen so far.
"Great character player and competes hard. We'll put those two guys on a line that can generate energy and turnovers and go to the net. I'm sure they're going to help us win some games."
Rypien, 22, has played in 14 games for the Moose this season, registering six points (3-3-6) and 35 penalty minutes. Bouck, 26, has recorded four points (1-3-4) in 20 games for the Moose. DOCTOR'S NOTE
Josh Green is expected to be out two weeks with a broken toe he suffered at practice Wednesday morning.
"They'll re-x-ray in two weeks and hopefully the bone's back together by then and I can start skating."
Green missed Thursday's game against the Ducks but practiced off the ice this morning. Green has registered four points (1-3-4) in 25 games, scoring his first goal on November 19 against the Blackhawks earlier this season.
Matt Cooke didn't skate Friday morning after receiving an injury in the second period against the Ducks on Thursday.
"Without getting into the specifics, just in case he plays tomorrow, I'd have to nail it down to one of those upper body injuries," says Vigneault.
There's a 50-50 chance Cooke will play tomorrow night when the Avs visit GM Place. DIVISION, DIVISION, DIVISION
We've heard it all before. If it's not about scoring it's about the 32 games we play against the Northwest rivals. The Canucks are struggling against teams in the Northwest going 1-6-1 so far this season.
However, we can give them a little slack given six of those games were played on the road, three of which against Colorado, who they will host Saturday night for the first time.
"They've all been tight games, hard fought games and I don't expect anything different tomorrow," said Vigneault. "Everyone in our organization from players to management, we're aware of how important tomorrow night is. We need to play well and that's what we're going to do."
Colorado went on a scoring spree Thursday night in Edmonton to take two points and jump ahead of Vancouver in the Northwest standings. The Avs won 7-3 with Marek Savatos scoring two and Peter Budaj making 21 saves on the night so they'll be bringing some momentum on Saturday.
"They had a big game in Edmonton the other night so they'll be ready to go [on Saturday]," says Brendan Morrison. "It's a big challenge for us and we have to rebound, we have to establish a home ice presence here and watch for upcoming games against divisional opponents, which are key games."
The Canucks are 6-6-0 when playing at GM Place, while Colorado's road records stands at 6-5-1. In the Northwest division, where first and last place are separated by only four points, every game against the division rivals makes a significant dent in the playoff standings.
"That's a sure thing, those games are huge especially down the stretch," said Alex Burrows, who's yet to score his first goal this season. "Those are the games that we are going to remember that those two points that we've lost."
The Northwest teams are currently ranked seventh to tenth in the Western conference standings so two points against a divisional team means just narrowly missing or making the playoffs. The Canucks are ninth in the conference, only one point behind Colorado in eight and are ranked fourth and third in the division.
The Canucks will have a chance to better their record against their rivals in the Northwest in ten of their next 13 games, starting tomorrow night against the Avs.
"The divisional games will probably decide the outcome of the season," said Naslund. "We have to play better against all those teams and we have a chance now starting tomorrow to get back at Colorado."
"They beat us three times in their building and we have to find a way to beat them here. I think we will."