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Joey Kenward: No surprises

by Joey Kenward / Vancouver Canucks

Into his first playoff stint with the Vancouver Canucks, Chris Higgins has already proven to be a valuable asset to the defending regular season champs.

And if you take a closer look at his track record when it comes to post season hockey, being valuable come playoff time shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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Joey Kenward is into his third season as the Canucks broadcaster/reporter for the Team 1040.

Follow Joey on Twitter: @kenwardskorner

The 27 year-old left winger scored the opening goal of Game 1 in the first round match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks. Thursday night, he repeated the same feat against the Nashville Predators in Vancouver’s 1-0 win to open the Western Conference semi-final. He’s one of four Canucks to score more than one goal this post season and the only Vancouver play to have a pair of game winning goals.

Higgins knows it’s important that he and his teammates not get frustrated this series if Preds goalie Pekka Rinne continues to play the way he did in the series opener, a game that saw him make 29 saves in a 1st star performance.

“He’s up for the Vezina Trophy for a reason,” says Higgins. “It can be easy to get frustrated when you get chances like we did. That can’t happen in the playoffs. You can’t let that sort of thing get to you.”

Higgins started the series against the Blackhawks playing on a line with Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson. In Game 6, Alain Vigneault made significant changes to his line combinations, which included putting Higgins on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen. That unit was very effective in a fore-checking role in Game 7 and has carried on the same way into this series with the Predators.

“Playing with Kes and Sammy the first couple of games, we did a good job on Chicago’s top line,” adds Higgins, who put up 14 shots in the series against the Hawks. “Now with Max and Jannik, it’s pretty easy playing with those guys. They know what they’re going to do with the puck and they’re responsible defensively. Hopefully we can come up with some big plays for the team.”

Higgins has now appeared in 30 career playoff games in the NHL. Originally a first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens (14th overall in 2002), Higgins has scored at least a goal in every series he has played. That includes six goals and five assists in four different playoff series involving the Montreal Canadiens.

Higgins is a native of Smithtown, New York. Growing up a few blocks away from Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island, Higgins found himself immersed with New York Islanders hockey. It didn’t take long for him to find a love for the game, and he was in pretty good company as a kid.

“Former Islanders Gerry Hart and Bob Nystrom used to work with a pee wee team on Long Island,” says Canucks Assistant General Manager Lorne Henning, a former Islander himself. “I remember Chris hanging out at the Islanders practice rink and skating with current NHL players like Eric Nystrom, Mike Komisarek, and Rob Scuderi.”

Even though the Islanders playoff dynasty had come to an end before he started to play competitively, Higgins knew full well what life was like for those who had been a part of a championship team. And as if he didn’t need any more convincing, he certainly did when he started his NHL career with the league’s most successful franchise.

“Obviously he wasn’t there to see the Islanders win Stanley Cups, but by being around guys growing up who had been part of a championship team, I’m sure that rubbed off on him,” adds Henning. “And of course by starting his career in Montreal and knowing the history the Habs have, it could only have helped him more in knowing how special it is to win in the playoffs”.

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