It’s nearly game time for the Vancouver Canucks and their practice groups are finally reflecting it.
On Monday the groups were more reflective of how the Canucks will look during their first pre-season games Tuesday against the Calgary Flames; Vancouver will host half of Calgary’s team, while sending another squad to compete against the Flames in Calgary.
Vancouver’s home game will feature an intriguing line-up led by a top line of Marco Sturm, Andrew Ebbett and Owen Nolan (more on this trio to follow…). The other lines consist of Steve Pinizzotto, Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen; Aaron Volpatti, Stefan Schneider and Anton Rodin; Matt Clackson, Antoine Roussel and Kellan Tochkin.
On defence the pairings have Keith Ballard with Chris Tanev, Yann Sauve with Ryan Parent, Aaron Rome with Adam Polasek and Nolan Baumgartner as the seventh lone wolf; Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack are the goaltenders.
The group heading to Calgary is a mixed bag of rookies and journeymen trying to make a good impression. Cody Hodgson is flanked by Mike Duco and Victor Oreskovich, Niko Dimitrakos skates with Nathan Longpre and Mark Mancari, Darren Archibald and Steve Begin are with Todd Fedoruk and Steven Anthony, Alex Friesen and Alexandre Grenier are the final threesome.
The blueline consists of Kevin Connauton and Anders Eriksson, Alexander Sulzer and Frankie Corrado, Andrew Alberts and Sebastian Erixon and Taylor Ellington penciled as the seventh defenceman; Manny Legace and Matt Climie are the goaltenders.
It’ll be just like old times for Marco Sturm and Owen Nolan when they play alongside one-another Tuesday against the Flames.
Sturm and Nolan were San Jose teammates from 1997 to 2002 and while they weren’t exclusive linemates throughout that time, there’s a familiarity between the two that will surely help Sturm make a good first impression in a Canucks uniform and aid in Nolan’s quest to land a roster spot.
“It’s nice to have him with me,” said Sturm, who was selected 21st overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
Sturm wasn’t exactly singing Peaches & Herb’s 1978 triple platinum hit “Reunited,” but he said all things considered, it feels so good.
“Hopefully we click right away. I know him for a long time too, so it’s definitely nice to have him on the other side.
“A few plays even today in the scrimmage he knew where I was and where I was going and he told me right away I didn’t change my style at all. I think it’s going to definitely help.”
Nolan joined in the duet saying that the similarities are still there despite nearly 10 years passing between games together.
“Marco’s a great player and it’s good to see him again,” said Nolan, boasting of Sturm’s attributes “His speed and he’s a very smart player reading the play, so we’re going to have that in our line-up.”
Reunited, Part 2
Sturm and Nolan won’t be the only ones reunited Tuesday.
Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev will be paired together to open the pre-season in Vancouver. Yesterday Tanev expressed his excitement in playing with Ballard again and today the veteran reiterated the feeling.
Even more thrilling for Ballard, though, is the fact that he’s coming off a healthy summer, one spent training instead of rehabbing.
“I feel good, I feel like I should. I feel good on the ice, I feel comfortable, it’s not a new environment any more, I have a year under my belt and everything with the city and the team and the organization, with everything going on here I feel a lot more comfortable.”
Pair that comfort with enough practice days and Ballard is itching to drop the puck on the pre-season.
“I think pre-season games are great, you can only go against your teammates for so long [in practice] before you want to actually hit somebody else,” he laughed.
Alain Vigneault addressed the media Monday, sharing his thoughts on this and that. Here’s a rundown.
-He said undrafted prospect Nathan Longpre caught his attention in Pentiction thanks to his speed and skill.
-Vigneault compared prospect Antoine Roussel to a young, feisty Alex Burrows from his early days. Now that’s saying something.
-Steve Pinizzotto has shown Vigneault more than he expected to see this early on. He was signed for his feistiness and physicality, but coach has noticed more. “I’ve seen a better skill set than our scouts had told me, so I’m anxious to see obviously the way he’s playing right now to how he’ll play against other teams. He’s definitely a player right now that’s on our radar and we that we’re going to give an opportunity to, but it’s going to be up to him to grab it with is play.”
-Jordan Schroeder, a versatile forward who can line-up anywhere, is slotted to play centre between Pinizzotto and Nicklas Jensen Tuesday. “We had him in that position at our rookie camp…we wanted to get a good look at a bunch of players and we’ll start him off there and see how he does there.”
-Cody Hodgson, also a versatile forward who can line-up on the wing or at centre, is penciled in at centre between Mike Duco and Victor Oreskovich for the game in Calgary. “Right now I really want to give him a chance at centre because that’s his natural position. What I’ve seen in the first three days I’ve really liked, he’s had more jump and that offensive spark is there. We’ll try him in that position and then as things and his play unfold, we’ll put the pieces where they need to go for us to win some hockey games.”
-Veteran Todd Fedoruk played for six NHL teams in four seasons before sitting out last year. Vigneault likes what he’s seen from the journeyman and he could be what Vancouver is looking for to add some grit to the line-up. “There’s a possibility that that type of player might be useful on our team. Obviously he’s big, he’s got experience, he’s got that physical dimension to his game; can he still bring it on a nightly basis, I don’t know, that’s why we camp, but he definitely has something to offer and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”
Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis announced today that the Canucks have reduced their pre-season roster by two players. Sawyer Hannay has been assigned to his junior club, the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, and Marc Anthony Zanetti was released.
Coach Vigneault confirmed that more cuts are upcoming, but he’ll carry a “good number” of players until Friday. For the back-to-back home games this weekend, the Canucks will likely be down to two groups, and down to roughly 30 players for the last three games. “That’s what I envision,” said AV.