BIEKSA MAKES AN APPEARANCE
Since suffering an ankle laceration on December 29 against the Phoenix Coyotes by the skate of Petr Prucha, Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa underwent major surgery for the second time in his professional career and met with the media for the first time since the injury.
Bieksa was first sidelined November 1, 2007 against the Nashville Predators when Vern Fiddler’s skate slashed his calf, causing him to miss 47 games that season.
Even though Bieksa isn’t cleared to get back on the ice, his healing process is expected to be faster than the last, so it’s hard to tell when he could be back.
“It’s a totally different tendon, it’s going to heal differently and it’s going to be a different timeline,” said Bieksa. “I don’t think we can really compare the two with recovery. I know I can’t because the last time I was in a hard cast for seven weeks and couldn’t walk at all, this time I’m walking three or four days after surgery. We’re hoping that means it’s quicker but right now we’re going to have to see.”
Bieksa has missed eight games with the current injury but is staying positive.
“I think I came back here with a pretty good mind set and right now I’m focusing on getting healthy as soon as possible,” said Bieksa.
Before having to leave the ice for surgery, Bieksa was a large asset to the Canucks and had scored one goal and 15 assists. In the 2008-2009 season, he accumulated 43 points (11-32-43). Canuck fans and the team look forward to Bieksa’s full recovery.
“I don’t think I want to throw out dates and time frames right now,” said Bieksa. “I’m in a situation where I have my boot on for another three weeks and get that off and kind of go from there as long as it takes for the rehab process, that’s when I’ll be back.”
Ryan Johnson (foot) and Steve Bernier (groin) skated a full practice today, and though still considered day-to-day with their injuries, will travel with the team and might play against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
“He’s [Johnson] getting closer,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “He practiced today as a defenceman here to give him a little bit more reps. I think he’s getting closer, I haven’t talked to him. He’s coming on the trip, him and Bernier are both coming. I will see how they respond to the practice tomorrow and we’ll take it from there.”
Johnson has missed 10 games with this injury, and Bernier has missed five games.
Defenceman Willie Mitchell was the only player missing from today’s practice with an upper body injury.
He left practice early with a sore back caused by a big hit from Minnesota Wild’s Derek Boogaard on January 13. He played 18:38 in the Canucks last game against the Pittsburhg Penguins but a hit from the Evgeni Malkin caused him to miss practice the next day. He is now considered day-to-day.
The hit drew a two minute boarding penalty for Malkin, but talk amongst the media suggest further penalties for the action. Whether or not it should be up for review lays in the hands of the league.
“I think the league reviews any hits or situations automatically that they feel need reviewing,” said Vigneault. “They say they watch every game so I’m sure that they’ve seen that hit and we’ll leave it up to them to decide if something needs to be done.”
So far this season Mitchell has been a strong defenceman along side Sami Salo with four goals and eight assists, including one in the second period against the Penguins last Saturday. The match against Edmonton on Wednesday will be the first game he misses this season.
Not only has Alex Burrows scored 11 goals in the last seven games, but finds himself on the powerplay.
Having seen 2:16 shorthanded time on ice per game on this season, Burrows continues to be a staple on the penalty kill, and proved it on Saturday against Pittsburg when scored a shorthanded goal John Curry in the first period - his second shorty of the season.
In the past few games, Burrows has been seen on the powerplay averaging 1:21 powerplay time per game - a vast increase from his 0:27 per game last season.
In the past three games, Burrows has played at least two minutes on the powerplay and is currently in twelfth place on the Canucks in powerplay minutes, catching up to Kyle Wellwood who has 71:24 and Sami Salo who has 98:46.
With 39 points this season (21-18-39), and currently holding tenth place for goals scored, Burrows has proven that he can excel in many different areas and is truly becoming a well-rounded player.
“He’s huge and he plays different roles as we see,” said Roberto Luongo. “He’s a good presence in front of the net when he’s on the powerplay, he’s got his crash team with the puck on the ice if there’s any rebounds laying around and stuff like that. He’s very skilled, he’s kinda like Kes where he plays a bit of everything.”
“He’s scored a lot lately so you gotta play guys that are hot, and he’s certainly hot,” said Daniel Sedin. “It’s fun to play with him on the powerplay.”
Burrows sees himself in both the powerplay and penalty kill due to the various injuries the team has faced this season and has been able to perform really well in those areas.
“It’s about personnel,” said Vigneault. “Right now we’re short a little bit personnel as far as powerplay people with the different injuries that we have, so we decided to use him there. But he’s such a good penalty killer that we make sure that we balance the ice time properly, especially in this condensed schedule.”