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Press Round-Up: APR.01.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Five straight losses vs. Avs

Jason Botchford said the Canucks will look to break a season-long tend against the Avs:

The law of averages favours the Canucks in tonight's game against the Avalanche, the matchup on paper does not.

The Canucks have lost five in a row to Colorado and have, a couple times, looked silly doing it. The Canucks down-low coverage has been continually exploited by the Avs' deep group of forwards who apply constant pressure.

"They have a great offensive team; I mean, look at their forwards," Daniel Sedin said. "They have three lines that are pretty good.

"When they get the puck deep on us, they give us a lot of problems. [Andrew] Burnette's great down there, so is [Joe] Sakic, [Peter] Forsberg, [Ryan] Smyth and [Paul] Stastnty."

Sedin finally stopped his list with a chuckle, acknowledging Colorado's impressive depth.

"That's a lot of good offensive weapons, you can't really focus on one line. You have to be ready whenever you're out there."

Despite the success, Sakic said the Avs aren't taking anything for granted.

"That doesn't matter," Sakic said of his team's five-game win streak. "Nothing else matters now. You look at the standings and it doesn't matter what anybody's done against anybody else. We know how they're going to play and we've got to make sure we play with the same intensity."

In the Canucks five losses to Colorado, they've given up 19 goals.
It's a different team at GM Place: Schedule not so bad now with final four games in Vancouver

Jason Botchford said the Canucks are a different beast at the Garage:

"At home, we seem to find that extra level, especially during the last month," Daniel Sedin said. "On the road, as soon as we're down, I don't want to say we give up, but we get too hard on ourselves."

It's called home-ice advantage for a reason, but the numbers the Canucks are posting are striking. They begin to explain a team that for many seems inexplicable.

In their past 11 games at home, the Canucks are 7-1-3. But they aren't just winning, they've been blowing the doors off teams.

In that 11-game stretch, the Canucks scored 38 goals (3.45 per game) and surrendered just 23 (2.09 per game). In that same time frame, the Canucks are 5-7 on the road, scoring just 24, while giving up 34 goals.

"We have a different feeling here playing in front of our fans," Henrik Sedin said. "I don't know why that is. Last year, it seemed like we played better on the road because we played a different game, we didn't force anything. But it seems like this year when we sit back, when we try to play well defensively, we give up more chances."

It's true, the Canucks have been more aggressive in GM Place. They've taken more risks. It's created more scoring opportunities and, surprise, more goals.

There is also something to be said about sleeping in one's own bed, and familiar surroundings. But the coaching staff deserves some credit for the home success. Vancouver is getting a clear strategic advantage in the matchups when they have last change.

On Sunday, the Canucks were able to keep Ryan Kesler on Jarome Iginla throughout the game. That wasn't the case a week ago in Calgary. It got under Iginla's skin. He spent much of the game in a fit, doing everything he could to get into a fight. It was futile and his play drew criticism from Flames head coach Mike Keenan after the game.

"It helps us quite a bit, without a doubt, having last change," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "It makes it easier for us, the coaches, to get our matchups. It's a big bonus. We can spread the minutes a little bit better. Our guys don't get caught out there tired as much. When we don't have last change on the road, we do get caught sometimes."

"The good part of our schedule is our last four games are at home, in front of our fans," Vigneault said. "We're going to take this part of the schedule and have a good run.”
Under pressure: Sedins know they must step up their play for team to make playoffs
Elliott Pap said the Sedin’s know they must step it up down the stretch and into the playoffs:

In the National Hockey League, you are measured as a player by your playoff performance.

"We know if we don't go deep in the playoffs, people are going to look at us that we're not playoff performers," Henrik Sedin conceded Monday. "The regular season is so tough to get into the playoffs. To be there shows that the team is good and that you personally have had a good season, too.

"It's something to be proud of, to make the playoffs, because it doesn't happen every year."

The twins have been in the playoffs five times, missed once in 2005-06 and have participated in seven series. Their numbers are not stellar. Daniel has 18 points -- and only five goals -- in 43 post-season games. Henrik has 20 points, also in 43 games.

"Our first four years here, we made the playoffs every year," said Henrik.

"It's something you thought was pretty easy to do, but it's not. Pretty much half the teams don't make it, so it's a grind every year."

"I think you realize that when you get older, you're not going to get that many chances. For a few years, you think there are 10 or 15 more chances but, as time goes on, you realize it's tough, so you have to take every chance you have."

Daniel says he understands the near hysteria every time the Canucks lose a crucial game and over-wrought fans demand everyone be traded or fired.

"Of course, I would probably be the same way," he said. "We've been here for so long now we know what the media is going to say and what the fans are going to say.”

The Canucks will hear about it again tonight if they are unable to solve the Avalanche, who have beaten them five straight times.

Vancouver can hang its hat on a 7-1-3 mark in the last 13 games at GM Place and Sunday's resounding 6-2 triumph over Calgary.

"It seems right now we're a different team at home and playing before our fans gives us more energy," said Henrik Sedin.

"The mood in the dressing room is way better. We know if we do our part, we're going to make it."
Luongo missing some practices

Jason Botchford said Luongo rightfully takes some time off to stay focused and ready:

Despite the baby issue and a "demanding schedule" the Canucks begrudge, Alain Vigneault said he didn't have any problem with the fact Roberto Luongo has started 35 of the team's past 37 games.

On Sunday, two days after he went to Florida for the birth of his daughter, Luongo admitted he was "a bit drained."

"We're one point up in the playoffs, I'm not going to sit out my top goalie," said Vigneault when asked if, in hindsight, he wished he gave Luongo a couple more nights off along the way. "It's not going to happen."

Luongo thrives on practice and is obsessed about routine.

Last season, for example, in Quebec, he ignored Vigneault's request that he stay off the ice, practising while still recovering from a throat injury that kept him in hospital overnight on an intravenous drip.

Luongo rarely spent a day away from the ice last season.

It was enough, in addition to the 88 games he played (including playoffs), to convince Vigneault his goalie doesn't need many days off.

In September, Vigneault said: "He's a workhorse. He doesn't need time off. He gets upset at me when I want to give him some time off. So, he's going to play and he's going to practise."

But Luongo is getting time off now. He is not practising, at least not as often as he used to. Luongo has taken more days off the ice during the past few weeks than he has the entire season.

It's not surprising. He understandably needs the rest, given the travel he has endured with the team and for his family during the past few weeks.

"He was at his best last year down the stretch playing all those games," Vigneault said. "I think the fact the schedule has been so demanding, rightfully so, he needs to take some time off on game days.

"The fact the last couple of weeks for him must have been a little emotional. He hasn't seen a lot of his wife. He wasn't sure what to expect.

"The mental and physical side are done with. Now he can focus on making sure he's energized and can play."
Bieksa a powerful force for most of game: Nonis calls it Kev's best since return

Jason Botchford said Bieksa played his best game since returning from injury:

Kevin Bieksa said he didn't think Sunday was among his best games since coming back from a lacerated calf. He clearly hasn't seen tape of the final 40 minutes.

Sunday's game was as bizarre as Bieksa's season. Hesitant and mistake-prone in the first period, Bieksa was a decisive, powerful force in the next two. He blew up Flames forwards. He created space in one end. He took it away in the other. He stickhandled into the offensive zone with ease. He made a couple of seeing-eye passes and he played with a definite edge.

For moments Sunday, Bieksa made his pending $3.5-million-a-year contract extension, which kicks in this summer, look like a bargain.

In an interview on TEAM 1040 AM Monday, Canucks GM Dave Nonis put it bluntly: It was Bieksa's best game since he's come back.

"When he keeps it simple, physical, with a good first pass, he's a very good defenceman," Alain Vigneault said. "I'm hoping [Sunday] night is going to be the start of something really good for him. We need him and he knows we need him."

That fact provides some insight into why Bieksa has maybe shied away from his combative nature since his comeback. He said he hasn't been asked by the coaching staff to stay away from fisticuffs, but he understands there are potential consequences if he fights.

"Obviously, we have a thin blueline right now," Bieksa said. "As much as I want to do it more, it's not in the best interest of the team right now. These games are important. Every point is important. If they need me to get into a fight to win a game, I will do it. But I haven't really seen an opportunity where I can spark the team.”

"I'm not just going to go out there and fight for the sake of it."

It's not the only way he's had to adjust his game because of the injuries to the Canucks back end.

"The thing I've been trying to do is keep it simple, be solid out there," Bieksa said. "The coaches had told myself, Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo to be safe out there. That's what we're trying to do."

"I've felt like I've had better games," Bieksa said. "It's funny, but when you get three points everyone thinks you played well, but that's not always the case. I'm trying to get better with the more games I play."
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