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Joey Kenward: Sudden impact

by Joey Kenward / Vancouver Canucks

Based on his play since late November, Canucks forward Jeff Tambellini should definitely be in the discussion when it comes to who the “Unsung Hero” of the hockey club is.

However, if he continues to play the way he has been lately, the praises from teammates, coaches, management, and fans will continue to be sung louder and louder, likely taking him out of the “unsung” category.

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“It’s nice to have success, at any level,” says Tambellini, who has put up eight goals and six assists in 20 games this season. “I’m fighting for ice time every night and being put in different roles. I’m always trying to push for a bigger role with this group.”

Overnight it seems, his role has gotten bigger with this group. After starting the season with the Canucks, the native of Trail, B.C. suited up for six games, scoring two goals and chipping in one assist. He was then re-assigned to the Canucks AHL affiliate in Winnipeg. His stay with the Manitoba Moose didn’t last long, as he put up five goals and two assists in seven games.

“When we sent him down, we weren’t quite sure of the mix of forwards that we wanted,” says Head Coach Alain Vigneault. “He went down, played real well, and had a great attitude.”

Since being called up, he’s only gone four games without registering at least a point for his efforts. Tambellini is the prime example of a player who, after getting sent down to the minors, has done everything in his power to get back to the NHL and stay there.

“When we needed a player in a more offensive role, that’s the first guy Moose Head Coach Claude Noel mentioned,” adds Vigneault. “We called him up and he hasn’t looked back since.”

Numbers are numbers, but the stats don’t lie. When the Canucks have Tambellini in the line-up this season, they have just suffered just one loss in regulation (16-1-3 as of Dec. 27). Not bad for a guy who’s bounced back and forth the past four seasons between the New York Islanders and their farm team.

“It’s a pretty good group in here,” adds the 26 year-old. “I’m sure they’d have the same record with or with out me. It’s just nice to be a big part of a winning team.”

It’s not like Tambellini is a rookie trying to find his way into a new league in a new city. He grew up in Vancouver when his dad Steve was a player first and then a member of the club’s management team. He played his minor hockey in the lower mainland before claiming MVP honours in the BCHL during his two years spent with the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Last season, Tambellini experienced his most productive season in the NHL on Long Island. Tambellini put up seven goals and seven assists, but for whatever reason, he played in just 36 games. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a change of scenery in the off-season was probably the best thing for him. And he wasn’t about to say no to his hometown team when they offered him a one-year contract.

“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t with different teams,” says the left winger. “They’ve given me a great opportunity here to play an offensive role, which is something a bit new. I’m just trying to make the most of it.”

Canucks fans would definitely agree he’s doing just that.

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