THE VANCOUVER SUN
Black & blue line: Ohlund, Miller join the list of no-shows on defence as the team can now rely on only one of its top-six blueliners
Brad Ziemer said injuries to Canuck defencemen continue to be a surmounting problem.
“Mattias Ohlund and Aaron Miller have become the latest no-shows on a beat-up Vancouver blue line,” said Ziemer.
“Ohlund isn't hurt, but had to return home to Vancouver on Monday for undisclosed personal reasons and may or may not be back in time to play tonight when the struggling Canucks face the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars.”
“Miller spent Monday resting a foot he hurt while blocking a shot in Friday night's loss to the Florida Panthers. His status for tonight's game will be determined at this morning's game-day skate.”
“The absence of Miller and Ohlund left the Canucks with only five defencemen -- three of them rookies -- at Monday's practice. And they only had five D-men because Sami Salo
, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, returned to practice and should play tonight.”
"I feel good today and if nothing changes overnight I am ready to go tomorrow," Salo said.
“Salo had better plan to play because frustrated coach Alain Vigneault likely would not take no for an answer,” said Ziemer.
“The Canucks are already without Willie Mitchell (back) and Lukas Krajicek (shoulder) and, of course, Kevin Bieksa
has been out since Nov. 1 as he recovers from a lacerated calf muscle.”
“If Ohlund and Miller don't play tonight, the Canucks would be going with just one of the six players -- Salo -- projected to be their top six defencemen heading into the season. All these injuries are not enough to make Vigneault, a former defenceman, contemplate coming out of retirement.”
"I wouldn't do that to my players," he said with a smile.
“Vigneault said neither he nor his players can afford to dwell on the injuries,” said Ziemer.
"Injuries are part of a season and, really, you can't let it affect you, you can't let it bother you, you just have to deal with it and come up with game plans that give yourself a chance to win," he said.
"We're no different than any other team in the league. We have to deal with it, we have some good players here and they have to play and play hard."
“Still, there is obvious concern. The Canucks have lost three straight and haven't won a game in regulation in their last 12 outings. After Monday's practice at American Airlines Arena, Vigneault spent several minutes huddled at the bench area with general manager Dave Nonis and trainer Mike Burnstein. You can bet they weren't talking about where they were going to dine Monday night in Big D,” said Ziemer.
“If Ohlund and Miller both can't play tonight, the Canucks will have to make yet another call to the AHL's Manitoba Moose, which already has its best two defencemen -- Nathan McIver and Luc Bourdon -- with the Canucks. Shaun Heshka, Zack Fitzgerald, Greg Classen and Jimmy Sharrow are among the candidates for promotion. Classen is the only member of that foursome with NHL experience.”
"With or without those guys we still have to play a strong checking game and our forwards have to help our defence and our goaltender," Vigneault said.
"And every time we have done that we have given ourselves a chance to win and this game is about finding ways to win. So we'll find out about our personnel, make our decisions and go from there."
“There is no decision to be made in goal, where Roberto Luongo
will start his third straight game after an extended all-star break,” said Ziemer.
"We have been dealing with this [injuries] for awhile now," Luongo said. "Like I have said many times, we need guys to step up and do a good job. We have done it in the past, so I don't see why we can't do it now."
“Salo, meanwhile, returns hoping to salvage something out of what has been, from a personal perspective, a miserable season. He has missed 19 games this season with three separate injuries and when he has played, Salo has not been his old self,” said Ziemer.
“He has just one goal and seven points in 34 games. Last season, Salo had 14 goals and 37 points, both career highs.”
"We have 29 games to go and the most exciting part of the hockey season is on the doorstep -- the playoffs -- so that's my focus right now," he said.
Turco just Luongo's latest challenge: Dallas goalie's on quite a roll and Canucks stopper better start his
Ben Kuzma said Tuesday’s game in Dallas will be a goaltender showdown.
“Marty Turco was the NHL's second star last week. Roberto Luongo
will have to be the game star tonight,” said Kuzma.
“As much as Luongo is downplaying a goaltending duel, the banged-up Canucks desperately need their stopper to come up with a bang-on performance at the Dallas Stars.”
“Except Luongo isn't buying the theory. In his mind, a collective effort is the only way to climb out of a 2-7-2 funk that saw the Canucks slip to ninth in the West after 53 games.”
“They also have just one regulation win in their last 13 games and haven't won a regular-season regulation game in Dallas in six visits -- dating back to March 17, 2003 -- but did triumph in two of three playoff encounters here last spring,” said Kuzma.
"Like I've said many times, we need guys to step up and do their jobs," Luongo said Monday. We've done it in the past and I don't see why we can't do it now."
“That might be easier said than done,” said Kuzma.
“Aside from mounting injuries, there's Turco. He went 3-0-0 on a Western Canada swing last week with a 1.67 goals-against average and .948 saves percentage -- including a 4-3 win at GM Place -- and is 43-11-3 in career games against Canadian clubs.”
“Those stats will draw comparison to Luongo because consistency marks the game's greats. He was outstanding with 40 saves Friday in a 4-3 shootout loss at Florida and ordinary at times Thursday in a 4-3 setback at Tampa,” said Kuzma.
"He's got to get that swagger," said coach Alain Vigneault. "Once he gets on a roll he's tough to beat. Florida was a step in the right direction."
“The Canucks will go as far as Luongo carries them. If he even comes close to matching a red-hot run in November and December -- 14-3-3, 1.54 GAA, .951 saves percentage -- then a playoff position will be a probability, not a possibility,” said Kuzma.
"No matter what the circumstances are, our jobs don't change," said Luongo. "We've got to play hard and be at our best, and it doesn't matter if the opposition is hot or cold. If we do that, in the long run things will take care of themselves. We know we have enough talent to be in the top eight."
“In Florida, reporters were poking and prodding following the pre-game skate to see if the former Panther could handle the hockey-mad Vancouver market. And the challenge of becoming a father with wife Gina staying in Florida to give birth this spring,” said Kuzma.
"It's not easy," he said of being apart. "I think as a professional I'm able to ... focus on my work."
“Turco might be the perfect tonic to turn this 0-1-1 road trip around,” said Kuzma.
"He [Turco] is the reason we lost at home," Vigneault said of the last meeting. "We outplayed them and he was real good."
“Luongo's challenge is to make Dallas coach Dave Tippett say the same,” said Kuzma.
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Ticker tells tale of team decline
Brad Ziemer said the Canucks recent slide seats them ninth place in the Western Conference.
“The NHL standings are a little like the stock market,” said Ziemer.
“How much consideration you pay to both of them has a lot to do with how well your team, or portfolio, is performing.”
“In good times, you give them plenty of attention. In bad times, you try to ignore them. Suffice to say the Vancouver Canucks, who are in something of a bear market, are not spending a lot of time charting their slide down the Western Conference standings.”
“Everyone knows the Canucks have dropped out of the top eight, but no one really wants to spend a lot of time talking about it,” said Ziemer.
"You try not look at the standings," goalie Roberto Luongo
said after Monday's practice in Dallas, where the Canucks meet the Stars tonight.
"Things happen ... It's not something we wanted, obviously, but we are faced with that right now. We know we have the talent in this locker room to be in the top eight, so as long as we do our job and play as a team and work hard, things should be all right."
“The Canucks have fallen from third place to ninth in the last month. That's what happens when you win one game in your last eight and go a dozen games without winning in regulation,” said Ziemer.
“And while coach Alain Vigneault and general manager Dave Nonis prefer to accentuate the positive aspects of the team's play of late, there's no doubt the Canucks must turn things around soon if they expect to play beyond April 5.”
"The players understand the sense of urgency, but at the same time the focus has to be on what we need to do on the ice to give ourselves the best chance to win," Vigneault said Monday.
"I don't see us any differently than a lot of teams in our conference," added Nonis. "We are pretty tightly packed. I think we have a very good opportunity to put some games together and be in the post-season. I have said all along that I think the eighth seed is going to have as good a chance as the first seed to move on.
"It's very tightly packed and I don't see our situation any differently than I did two or three weeks ago. I'd like to see us string a few wins together, but I don't see our club as one that doesn't have a chance to do something if we get healthy and get some people back."
Linden outlasts 'darkest time' trade from Canucks
David Pratt said Linden deserves to retire as a Canuck.
“Why is it that, sometimes, bad things happen to good people?”
“Wednesday will mark the 10th anniversary of the trade that sent Trevor Linden to the New York Islanders for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a third-round draft choice.”
“Feb. 6, 1998 -- the day the Canucks Nation's jaw dropped. That morning, Linden came off the ice after practice and equipment manager Pat O'Neill gave him the news,” said Pratt.
"It was a pretty dysfunctional situation," Linden recalls. "So, for me it was kind of a relief."
“Dysfunctional does not even begin to describe the Canucks organization in those years. Both general manager Pat Quinn and head coach Tom Renney had been fired and replaced with Mike Keenan David Pratt,” said Pratt.
“The nightmare began on Oct. 2, 1997, in Tokyo, where the Canucks were preparing to start the regular season. The team called a press conference to announce Mark Messier was replacing Linden as captain. It would have been more humane to rip Linden's heart out, place it in a blender and hit puree than to tear the 'C' off his jersey.”
“Then came the night in St. Louis where the Canucks were beat 5-1 by the Blues, Keenan blamed Linden and went postal on him in a profanity-laced tirade in front of the rest of the team. To this day, Linden simply refers to it as his "darkest time."
“Thanks to the Olympics and Linden's role with Team Canada, it would be two weeks before the reality of the trade finally hit,” said Pratt.
"I remember I walked into the Long Island Marriott," Linden says. "I went up to my room, dropped my bags, opened the curtains, looked out and thought, 'Wow, this has actually happened.'"
“After what the Canucks had just done to Linden, they should have rolled over and had a cigarette. Suddenly, nine years of loyal service -- including the 1994 Stanley Cup run -- meant very little. In the '94 final, Linden had gone to war with Messier and by the end of Game 7 his face looked worse than a Nick Nolte mug shot,” said Pratt.
“Yet, less than four years later Messier -- of all people -- was the captain in Vancouver and Linden was on Long Island. The business of the NHL can often be colder than a Revenue Canada audit.”
“It would only have been natural to feel bitter toward the Canucks, but that was not the case,” said Pratt.
"I never really felt that they betrayed me," insists Linden. "Things happen for a reason."
“Yes, they do. In 1999, McCabe was dealt to Chicago in a trade that allowed the Canucks to draft the Sedins and in 2006 Bertuzzi was sent to Florida for Roberto Luongo
,” said Pratt.
“But it's Nov. 10, 2001, that really counts. That's the day the Washington Capitals traded Trevor Linden back home to Vancouver. It guaranteed Linden would retire as a Canuck and his No. 16 jersey would eventually find its way into the rafters at GM Place.”
“Sometimes good things happen to good people.”