CANUCKS HIT THE ICE
The Vancouver Canucks officially hit the ice for the first time this season during day 2 of training camp at UBC Thunderbird Arena.
Split into three groups, each crew took part in a nearly two-hour ice session run by Vancouver’s coaching staff before spending roughly 30 minutes on dry-land training. Media availability followed before players got the chance to sit back and take in the fun that is training camp.
“First day is first day, it’s all good out there,” laughed veteran defenceman Willie Mitchell.
“It’s exciting, the excitement is there again. It’s been exciting the last few weeks but just to sit down with the team to have dinner and talk about things you did accomplish last year and the things we left on the table that we weren’t happy about and what we’re going to go about correcting that.”
Mitchell was part of group A, the first to skate on the day, and he was paired with another familiar face in Kevin Bieksa. The other D-pairings included Brad Lukowich with Nolan Baumgartner, Michael Funk with Lawrence Nycholat and Evan Oberg with Shane O’Brien.
One noticeable player missing on the backend was Mattias Ohlund who became a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning this off-season.
“No doubt we’re going to miss Mattias, he had been here for a long time and he was a great leader, a quiet leader, but an exceptional leader and an exceptional person and teammate and I don’t think you can replace that, I just think you have other people come in and do what they do.”
Mitchell is more than confident that the Canucks have made up for the loss of Ohlund and that everyone will take on more leadership to ease the transition.
“There’s some new face so we’re trying to get acquainted. Everyone brings different things to the table and we’ll have some young guys who evolved last year like Alex and obviously Kes is a leader for us and still we need even more of that. I think those guys will take bigger roles, Kevin will take a much bigger role also.”
Andrew Raycroft and Cory Schneider were between the pipes for group A, while upfront the line of Sergei Shirokov, Mario Bliznak and Ronald Petrovicky drew a lot of attention, as did Michael Grabner, Kyle Wellwood and Guillame Desbiens.
Some argue that line combinations this early in camp mean about as much as the temperature of the ice, and for the most part they’re right.
You can’t help but speculate about a trio that was featured in group B, however.
The top line had Daniel and Henrik Sedin alongside Mikael Samuelsson in a smorgasbord of Swedish talent. They looked good together, and many were saying the same for Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and Mark Parrish.
On defence Travis Ramsey and Kevin Connauton worked well together and Aaron Rome and Chritian Ehrhoff also showed promise.
Roberto Luongo was his usual stone cold self in net, but netminder Daren MacHesney struggled to keep the puck of out from behind him.
Fans in attendance didn’t get a glimpse of group C as they skated on a separate ice sheet. Young guns primarily made up this bunch with Kellan Tochkin, Steven Anthony, Prab Rai and Taylor Ellington on the ice, but two players stood out quite noticeably. Cody Hodgson and Mathieu Schneider also skated in this 11-some, both have yet to be cleared to practice with contact.
Pavol Demitra opted not to skate with Group C on Sunday.
TERRACE IS HOCKEYVILLE
It’ll be back to work for groups B and C on Monday with group A jet setting to Terrace, BC to take part in Kraft Hockeyville 2009.
The Canucks will faceoff against the New York Islanders as part of the yearly competition that awards an NHL exhibition game and $100,000 towards arena upgrades as the grand prize for city that receives the most votes.
Terrace edged out more than 7,100 entries and joins previous Kraft Hockeyville winners Roberval, QC (2008); North Bay, ON (2007); and Salmon River, NS (2006) as passionate hockey communities that get to experience the NHL first hand.
“Everyone here is really excited and pumped,” said Carol Fielding, communications chair for the bid from Terrace, a coastal community 1,367 km north of Vancouver and home of the CIHL’s Terrace River Kings.
Terrace won’t get to see Luongo in net or the Sedins upfront, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some big name players taking part in the event.
Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa are standouts on defence, while Kyle Wellwood, Rick Rypien, Michael Grabner and Sergei Shirokov will try to light up the Islanders and send Terrace into a frenzy.
Cory Schenider and Andrew Raycroft are both likely to dress for the game with it being a game-time decision as to who starts.
The Canucks vs. Islanders will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Monday night on Sportsnet.