New Canuck Chris Higgins arrived in Vancouver last night. He met the media for the first time this afternoon.
“If you’re going to move to a team, this is the team you want to get moved to. It was a nightmare playing this team throughout the year,” said Higgins. “They give teams a lot of trouble and obviously they have a lot of skill, they work pretty hard and it’s obviously a great opportunity to come here.”
Higgins is a versatile player, with both scoring touch and grit. He’ll slot in anywhere from the 2nd to fourth line, but seems firmly aware that on the Canucks, players earn their ice time.
“I’ll probably start off pretty low on the totem pole, how do you argue with a team that’s first in the league? So I’ll have to earn my minutes and I have no problem doing that.”
“I’ll try not to change the dynamic they have in the locker room here, obviously it’s going really well, and they’ve won a lot of games, just have to find my role on this team and do it as quickly as possible.”
It’s unknown at this point when he’ll return from a broken thumb, suffered while blocking a shot against the Atlanta Thrashers last week, but it could be during the Canucks upcoming five game road trip.
“I am going to be skating, working out on my own, then start practicing with the team, and we’ll take it from there,” said Higgins. “There’s not really any set timeline as far as what game I’ll be in, but once I start practicing with the team I’ll probably have a better idea.”
The Canucks other trade deadline acquisition, former Higgins teammate, Maxim Lapierre, played his first game for the Canucks last night. He registered 5:41 of ice time that included a shift on the penalty kill.
“The first one is always the toughest, new team, new teammates, new system,” said Lapierre. “You’re always a little nervous, but it’s out of the way now.”
When are you on top of your game?
Higgins: “When I’m moving my feet, playing with a lot of energy and playing with my head, playing a smart game.”
When are you not playing well?
Higgins: “When I’m not playing with my instincts.”
On his brother a NYC firefighter and his father, a NYC policeman:
“I’m obviously pretty proud of them, and it would be something I would look to do if I wasn’t in hockey.”
Former World Junior teammate Ryan Kesler on Higgins:
“I think he has a pretty good skill set and he works extremely hard, good American kid, we’re starting to get more Americans on this team, so we’re starting to be a hardnosed team that way,” said Kesler, with a grin.
“He’s proved in the past that he can put the puck in the net and if we ever have injuries or anything, he can move up in the lineup.”
Former Montreal teammate Maxim Lapierre on Higgins:
“He’s a really good player, he is fast, he works really hard, good set of hands, so he’s going to bring a lot to this team and we’re both happy to be here right now.”
“He’s versatile, he can play anywhere, he can be gritty, he has some good hands, he’s going to work hard and I can’t wait to see him on the ice.”
HEADING DOWN THE STRETCH
In spite of last night’s shootout victory, the Canucks leadership group is unhappy with the way the team is playing of late.
“We’ve slipped a little bit lately, but I think it’s an easy fix for us, we have still got things to play for, we want to finish first in our conference,” said Daniel Sedin.
“We’re making minor mistakes that are costing us games here and there. We have a decent record over the past couple of weeks, but we know we can play better”
“We just have to focus on our game, focus on the mistakes were making,” said alternate captain Ryan Kesler. “No one on is going to play a perfect game ever, but we can play pretty close, we need to get back to that.”
With such a massive lead on their nearest division rivals, the team has set their sights on other goals, including a number one seed heading in to the playoffs.
“I think our motivation should be as high as anybody else. We haven’t locked in a playoff spot yet, we haven’t locked our division. Once we’ve done that, if we have an opportunity at the Conference that should be motivation enough.”
“We’re going to have to battle to finish first in the Conference, but that’s our focus, it will make it a little bit easier in the playoffs,” said Daniel Sedin.
Both Ryan Kesler and Coach Vigneault are quick to point out how tight the games are in the NHL right now, as teams on the bubble make their final playoff push.
“When you look at last night, there were ten games in the NHL, and there was one game that was a blowout, all the others were 2-1 games, it’s a hard fought league right now, it’s a challenge to score, and a challenge to execute.”
“You could tell Columbus worked extremely hard for that point last night, we didn’t have a very good effort but we still won,” said Kesler. “That’s positive. At the same time we have to be a lot better.”