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D-eep In Scoring

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
Struggling once again to ripple the mesh, the Vancouver Canucks got some secondary scoring from a familiar source: their blue-line.

Kevin Bieksa scored his first of the preseason and Alex Edler added his second as the Canucks lost 4-3 in a shootout to San Jose, handing the club its third consecutive defeat.

The loss overshadowed what could be considered an offensive explosion for this Vancouver team. Having scored just one goal in the previous two games, the Canucks tallied three in a little over one period.

After Taylor Pyatt scored early in the second to tie things up at 1, Bieksa struck less than four minutes later.

The Grimsby, Ontario native, who signed a three-year contract extension with Vancouver this past offseason, picked up a loose puck and snapped it past rookie San Jose netminder Thomas Greiss.

“It was actually a pretty good shift by us,” said Bieksa. “We had a couple of chances that shift and the puck popped out in the slot to me there and I had a lot of traffic. I just tried to get it through and I don’t think the goalie saw a thing.”

Bieksa was second among Vancouver defensemen last season when he tallied 12 goals and was first with 42 points. Sami Salo led the group with 14 goals, while Mattias Ohlund added 11.

Given the fact that the Canucks will start this season with essentially the same crew that finished last season, getting offense from the back-end will be just as important as it was one year ago, if not more.

Vancouver captain Markus Naslund sees the need for more scoring, no matter where it comes from.

“We’re not generating enough offensively,” said Naslund. The 21-year old Edler, however, is certainly doing his part. The Swedish defenseman, who played 22 games with the big club last season, took a pretty drop pass from Trevor Linden and blasted a slapshot past Greiss to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead 6:47 into the third period.

It was the second time this preseason Edler’s big shot has been on display. He fired one past Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff on September 19th during a 4-0 Vancouver win.

Looking calm and confident on a defense pairing with Ohlund, Edler logged 19:42 in ice-time and was a +1. And since he has already tallied as many goals in four preseason games as Willie Mitchell and Rory Fitzpatrick combined to score last season in 120 games, Edler is making it extremely difficult for Alain Vigneault and his staff to keep him off the pro squad.

And with similar, if not better, offensive seasons expected from Bieksa, Ohlund, Lukas Krajicek, and the currently-injured Salo, Vancouver’s offensive outlook for the coming season is certainly looking up and the number of game-winning goals by Canuck defensemen might just surprise a few people around the league.

Read the Game Recap

1 – Assist for Trevor Linden in his preseason debut.

4 – Hits for Linden and Ryan Kesler to lead the team.

7 – Minutes in penalties for Brad Isbister, who landed a couple of hard right hands in a first-period fight with Kyle McLaren.

10 – Attempts before someone scored in the shootout.

24:54 – Of ice-time for Kevin Bieksa, who led all skaters.

The Canucks did well to bury the scoring chances that they had but those chances were too few and far between.

The defense had some trouble containing San Jose’s speed, particularly along the outside, and looked slightly out of sync at times.

That being said, they did well to limit the number of good chances San Jose had.

0-for-7 on the powerplay.

Vancouver also gave up three goals on the penalty kill, including one in the final minute of the third period.

The only way these teams were special is in the same way Ralph Wiggum is special.
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