SUNDIN MEETS THE TEAM
GM Place was swarming with reporters this morning, everyone vying for a glimpse of Mats Sundin as he tested the ice alongside his new teammates.
The 17-year NHL veteran arrived in Vancouver yesterday from Sweden and joined the Canucks for their game day skate today. Sundin looked good on the ice, donning a Canucks jersey for the first time.
“Mats is really excited to be here," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "He seems to be in really good condition.
“He told me when I met him that he hasn’t felt this good in a long time. I think the fact that his body has had time to heal a little bit physically and mentally, I asked him why he decided to come back and he said he missed the game, he wants to play, he’s excited, he’s happy to be here and we’re happy to have him.”
Sundin believes that Vancouver is a contender and is excited to have the chance to continue playing in Canada.
“I watched the Canucks a few times, and obviously I feel that the Canucks have a good enough team to be strong in the playoffs," said Sundin. "Saying that though I know more than anyone, I’ve played 17 years in this league, I realize that you don’t pick a winner, or who’s going to the win the Stanley Cup, this league is too competitive. But I definitely feel that the Vancouver Canucks have a good enough team to be competitive in the playoffs."
The Canucks look forward to playing with Sundin and hope to use his presence as motivation to raise their game.
“Of course it adds a little buzz," said assistant captain Willie Mitchell. "It adds a buzz and a distraction, so it can work both ways, I think if you harness the energy and use it in the right way it can work in your favour.
"As a group, we’re excited to add a good player, no doubt. And we’re going to try to use that motivate us to take our team to the next level and not just him coming in and bringing another element but forcing the rest of the team to dig deeper and raise our level."GETTING GAME READY
Sundin has been skating for the last few weeks and will remain in Vancouver and work with the conditioning staff while the Canucks travel to Nashville and Atlanta for back to back games. He will not play in Sunday's game against Dallas, but will practice with the team Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t underestimate the challenge to come in mid-season," said Sundin. "I realize that all the players are in mid-season form. Saying that though I think that I’ve prepared as good as I can, not skating and I would look at myself as going into training camp shape. And the thing missing for me is the skating and the up-tempo practices of a National Hockey League, practices and games.
“I’m going to try to prepare so once I start playing, whenever I’m on the ice I’m going try be as good as I can be and help the team in whatever role they want me to be. I’ll leave that to the coaches, the minutes and who I’m going to play with. We’ll see what happens."
Following his first practice with the Canucks, Sundin told the media that while a lot of things factored into his decision to play in Vancouver, something that stuck in the back of his mind was the conversation he had with Mike Gillis early on about Gillis' future outlook for the team and the role Sundin would have.
“Last season the way it ended for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was a tough season overall for myself and for the team and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue my NHL career," said Sundin. "Saying that though, once the season started this year, I’ve been watching the game and realizing that I am 37 years old and if I was going to compete in the National Hockey League it would have to be this season and I think just a couple weeks before signing with Vancouver I decided I want to get back to playing and competing against the best players in the world.
“The time that I had this summer and this fall has really helped me mentally to get to the hunger back of playing and competing in the National Hockey League and to have a chance to win. And I think at my age it takes a lot more time to work out and all that stuff to prepare so I needed that.”LUONGO SKATES
After the team's game day skate, injured star goaltender Roberto Luongo
skated for ten minutes, his first time on the ice since experiencing soreness at practice on December 10th. Luongo expects to continue working on the ice for short periods for the next few days.
“There isn’t really a time line, it was a good day for me and I’m happy that I was able to get on the ice and get through a lot of stuff," said Luongo. "I didn’t know what was going to happen and I felt great. So there’s going to be a lot of that going on over the next little while. And we’ll make sure that once I do get to practice I’ll be ready to go and 100%."
Check out the photos below of Luongo practicing on the ice after the team's game day skate. Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image.
“It’s just a matter of really being cautious this time and not really setting a time line that I want to follow. I’m just listening to myself and making sure that there’s nothing that is bothering me, because that’s the whole point that happened last time."
Luongo, who has been working hard in the gym every day with the training and medical staff, did not experience any soreness on the ice today. The Canuck captain admits it is hard not playing, but understands that it is more important to fully recover from his groin injury.
“I think the most important thing is to be ready for the last stretch before playoffs and right now I want to make sure when I do get back it will be for the rest of the year. WIN A SIGNED SUNDIN JERSEY!
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