By Travis Britton
It was another up-tempo practice at Rogers Arena today, with head coach Alain Vigneault and skills coach Glenn Carnegie putting the veterans through a grueling hour-and-a-half session.
The vets for the most part have not seen any pre-season action yet, but coach Vigneault said he has a plan in place, stating that he still has a lot of player evaluating to do yet and this is an important part of the process.
“For me it’s a real exciting time and a time that’s real important,” said Vigneault. “I’m getting to see some of these young guys, I’m getting to see some of the older guys that can play, having some great quality practice time with our group right now, were touching on a whole bunch of things. Five-on-five, powerplay, penalty killing…Roger’s kicking their butts off in the gym right now, so everything is working real good as far as putting the pieces together.”
As for tipping his hat as to who would suit up for Saturday nights tilt against Anaheim, coach kept his cards close to his chest.
“I haven’t really finalized my line-up for tomorrow yet because we’ve got a couple guys that are up in the air now with Owen Nolan, he’s got a tight groin, so does Andrew Ebbett, Begin is still suffering from some back issues and I’m missing a couple other guys that don’t come to mind. I’ve got to wait until at least the end of the day to finalize that, I’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”
Although the infirmary list continues to grow, Billy Sweatt has been cleared for contact and will play this weekend.
“Sweatt was cleared for contact, scrimmaged yesterday, will practice today and will probably play on the weekend,” said Vigneault, adding that Byron Bitz remains week-to-week.
Christmas has come early for Alain Vigneault as there have been several positive revelations he wasn’t expecting in this year’s pre-season.
“In my mind there were a lot of pleasant surprises in the sense that looking at Eddie Lack the way he’s played and looks confident in goal. It’s real good to see cause I didn’t see a lot of him last year in Manitoba and basically a kid that came out of nowhere for us.”
Lack has yet to surrender a goal this pre-season stopping all 22 shots faced. Listed at 6-foot-5, Lack is one of the bigger goalies in the game, and gives very little for attacking players to shoot at.
Jordan Schroeder and Cody Hodgson have also stood out to Vigneault.
“I knew about the skill,” he said of Schroeder, “I knew about the speed, but his defensive awareness to me has caught my eye.
“I love the fact that Cody coming in here the way he has, the way he’s played so far….whether it be with Nolan or Fedoruk. There are some guys that have come in and are pushing and challenging. Good internal competition is what you need and we are going to have some tough decisions as we move forward.”
Centre of attention
A lot has been written about Vancouver Canucks 2008 first round selection Cody Hodgson. Some good and even more bad, but don’t tell him that because the former CHL Player of the Year was yet again one of the best Canuck forwards Thursday night in Edmonton, for the second game in a row this pre-season.
Hodgson not only played a game high 24 shifts, he took 24 of the Canucks 49 faceoffs on the night, winning 14 of them.
“It was a full team effort tonight,” said Hodgson of the 2-1 Canucks win. “The faceoffs were something I really worked on in the summer and the wingers really helped me tonight because a lot of them were 50-50 and they won a lot. They also set me up with a lot of plays I should have buried. I feel a lot more comfortable and really enjoyed it out there.”
Vigneault acknowledged how hard Hodgson has worked of late.
“He’s come here obviously in great shape, he’s come here focused, he’s come here with an excellent attitude, and he is trying to do what all our players are trying to do. He is getting better every day, that’s one the mottos, that’s one of our themes here is we want to work on getting better every day through on ice work, through skill work, through video work and that’s one of things he’s been trying to do.”
The Canucks like what they’ve seen from their first-round draft choice Nicklas Jensen, so they got him to sign on the dotted line.
Jensen, who had a two-point night in his NHL pre-season debut Tuesday against the visiting Calgary Flames, signed a contract with the Canucks on Thursday.
As you guessed, the contract is a dream come true for Jensen.
“Well I don’t know, I’ve just been working hard in practice and try to show my best every time I was out there. Vancouver here is just really perfect with the young guys, they really help a lot and really give you a chance. So I’m really happy and lucky to be here in such a great team. I don’t know, I obviously did something good to sign quick, but I don’t know it’s all about hard work and take it day-by-day and show what you’ve got when you’re out there.”
To say Jensen has shown as advertised would be an understatement.
“You look at the size, the skill, his overall puck protection skills on the ice,” said Vigneault. “I mean here’s a young man that from what I’ve seen so far has a tremendous amount of upside, no fear, just goes out and plays and I’m really happy the organization was able to come to terms with him and now it’s going to be our responsibility and our job with him to develop him.
“I mean there’s so much upside there, you just can’t buy that size and that skill and we will do everything we can to help him become the best player he can be.”