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Canucks Welcome Fresh Faces

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks



Already missing Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo, the Canucks are now without Rory Fitzpatrick's services for the next four to six weeks.

The defender suffered a hairline fracture when Capitals forward Alexender Semin piled him into the boards Oct. 27th. He hobbled around the rink this morning in a walking cast.

"He has a hairline fracture that's really close to a tendon," said Alain Vigneault. "We were lucky in the sense that if we hadn't done an MRI, we could have lost him for the year."

Fitzpatrick's played four games since suffering the injury and averaged just over 17 minutes a game. Medical staff ordered the MRI midweek after Fitzpatrick's ankle kept bothering him.


Missing three of their top six defenders, the Canucks knocked on the Moose's door.

The Canucks called up training-camp standout Patrick Coulombe yesterday after sending 19-year-old defender Luc Bourdon back to his junior team in Moncton.

The 5'11", 185-pound defender from St. Fabien Quebec was one of the last cuts in camp.

"I was disappointed after that and have started slowly," said Coulombe, who had three assists and was a minus-eight in 12 games with Manitoba. "Now I'm just getting better and I'm just glad to be here."

"The fact was that I was disappointed a little bit and my focus wasn't 100 per cent in Manitoba."

If the morning skate is any indication, Coulombe will pair with Kevin Bieksa on the blueline.

"I'm sure the pair will get scrambled a bit but it looks like we'll be starting together," said Bieksa. "It should be pretty deadly out there on the back end."

"I saw a lot of Patrick in training camp and played with him quite a bit actually. He's looked good out there so far. He's a good puck mover, he sees the ice well, and skates well, so he'll be fun to play with."

With Fitzpatrick out, general manager Dave Nonis borrowed another blueline body from the Moose in 21-year-old Nathan McIver - the Canucks' eighth-round pick in 2003.

"I never try to do too much," said the 6'2", 195-pound defender. "I'm the kind of guy that just tries to keep it simple and do my job, move the puck quick, and make the right decision."

McIver has one assist and 20 penalty minutes in eight games this season. He'll likely play alongside Lukas Krajicek.

"Nathan's a young man that plays the game smart and has a nice degree of toughness that goes along with that," said Vigneault. "He can take care of himself and can take care of his teammates."


It's safe to say the injury bug is running amok in the Canucks' system. "It's not just us," said Vigneault, "I mean it's the whole organization right now. We've got three guys up here that play regular that are out, and our two top call-ups in the minors are out [Yannick Tremblay and Joe Rullier]."

"That being said, Coulombe had a great camp and McIver played some exhibition games, and Edler's come on really well."


All told, the Canucks will dress one of the youngest bluelines in team history tonight against the NHL-leading Ducks.

Aside from Ohlund, none of the Canucks defenders has a full season of NHL experience under their belt.

McIver (21) and Coulombe (21) will make their NHL debuts. Alexander Edler (20) has two games to his name, while Lukas Krajicek (23) and Kevin Bieksa (25) have less than 200 games between them.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo will need to be sharp.

"Unfortunately it seems as soon as one guy gets hurt, it's kind of a rash back there," said Luongo. "But the guys that have been here the last couple of days have done a good job, so I'm sure the new guys will do the same."

"If there are more shots, I'll deal with it. We've been giving up 20 shots a game, so if it goes up to 25 or 30, I'm sure it's not going to be a big deal."


Despite missing all but the painted blue line itself, coach Vigneault says the defence isn't his biggest concern.

"For me tonight, it's not about our defence, they'll be fine," he said. "It's about two things: [Luongo] has to have his best game of the season... and the second thing is our forwards will have to back check harder, block more shots, and play harder at both ends of the rink than they have so far this season."

"The [defence] is going to be fine. They've been told 'if you see the play, then take it. If it's not there, get it off the glass and get it out of our zone.'"


Salo skated with the team and could make it back for Saturday's game against the Flames.

"I think he was real close today, but he felt it wasn't quite right," said Vigneault.

Mitchell woke up with a headache yesterday. He worked out again today, but is doubtful for the weekend.

"It was his best day so far today," said Vigneault. "He came in today feeling really well. He's still working out rioght now and was on the ice this morning before the group so maybe tomorrow he'll practice with the team. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


November 9, 1995: Pavel Bure is checked by Steve Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Centre in Chicago. Bure tore his anterior cruciate ligament and misses the remainder of the season. Bure appeared in 15 games and recorded 6 goals and 7 assists. Pavel underwent arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstructive surgery at UBC Hospital 7 days later.

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