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Canucks Hit Ice Early

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks



Change is good.

Sure it's a cliche, but one that'll probably see some heavy use as players filter into Vancouver prior to training camp.

There's a definite sense of optimism surrounding this team despite the fact they finished outside of the playoffs last season for the first time in six years.

"It's a fresh start for everyone, new coaching staff and a lot of new players," said Markus Naslund, following his first on-ice training session since arriving in the city. "It's going to be a new look, that's for sure."

Naslund, along with a handful of Canuck veterans including Daniel Sedin, Mattias Ohlund, Brendan Morrison, and newcomer Willie Mitchell, skated at Burnaby 8-rinks Wednesday morning.

To a man, they say they're excited about the changes and are looking forward to a new season.

"I think we all feel we want to prove ourselves and are out to get some revenge for the past few seasons," said Naslund. "Hopefully we'll get that hunger back that we had a few years ago."

Wednesday was mostly casual drills, followed by a light, half-ice scrimmage. Aside from strength and conditioning coach, Roger Takahashi - who exclusively worked out with Morrison - it was simply players finding their legs and getting acquainted after the summer.

"First of all, it looks like a lot of the guys have worked really hard in the off season and have come back focused," offered Naslund. "And that's a great start. Moving forward we have to find the type of game that we're going to play, and that obviously is going to come from the coaches."

Alain Vigneault, along with assistants Rick Bowness, Mike Kelly, and Barry Smith won't get their fist look at the new group until training camp opens in two weeks. But it's no secret they'll be watching with an eye for filling a few key roster spaces vacated by Todd Bertuzzi, among others.

"I have no idea," said Naslund, when asked who he thought he might be playing with this year. "I haven't spoken with the coach yet, we'll just have to wait and see."

So will everyone else, though that hasn't stopped speculation. Following the skate the captain was asked if he thought Matt Cooke would be a good fit on right wing.

"I think that Matt Cooke has proved, especially in the playoffs against Calgary when we played there, that he can be more than just a checking, physical player. So I think Matt is definitely going to get a bigger role and hopefully he can take advantage of that."

The right wing position isn't the only spots in need of a new face.

Wade Flaherty - who finished his second season in Manitoba last year - was the only goalie on the ice Wednesday. He'll audition for a back-up role behind Roberto Luongo when camp opens in Vernon.

"I think he's a great guy first of all, and a quality goaltender," Naslund said. "He's proven that the last few years in Manitoba. He can definitely fill [the back-up] role. Whether it's going to be him or not, we'll have to wait and see."

As will the rest of Vancouver. Though one thing's for sure, all the changes will undoubtedly make for exciting pre-season.

Ohlund keeps an eye out. Early morning ice time. Mo rings one off the bar.
Finding the legs. Taking a breather. Heavy traffic.

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