Luongo steals Raymond's thunder: Season-High 49 Saves. Rookie forward gets a goal, an assist and overtime winner
Gordon McIntyre said Mason Raymond
shone, but Luongo shone brighter:
It would have been Mason Raymond
's coming-out party had Roberto Luongo
not played one of his best games ever on Thursday night.
Raymond scored a nifty opening goal, waltzing and weaving out of the corner, going around two Nashville defenders and then drawing Predators goalie Chris Mason way out of the net before roofing it over him.
Raymond earned an assist on the Canucks' second goal, then scored the only marker in the shootout to give the Canucks a 3-2 win.
But it would all have been for nought had Luongo not stood on his head -- and sat on his butt at one point -- with 49 saves.
He even made one save with his back to the play, the puck hitting him on the back of his skate.
The only pucks to elude him were both one-timers off cross-ice feeds on Predators power plays.
"The young man [Raymond] has a lot of upside," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He made a great move on that goal and scored a big shootout goal for us.
"[But] tonight's game was all Roberto." Dan Hamhuis
stared for seconds in disbelief when Luongo, sitting on the ice on the other side of the net, got his glove on a shot that until the last moment was heading toward an open net.
"That one where I was on the floor? It was a desperate play," Luongo said. "I saw he had the open net and I just put my glove out there and was able to track it."
He also made outstanding saves on Jerred Smithson, Greg De Vries and Radek Bonk in close as the Canucks allowed a season-high 51 shots. (Luongo made 47 saves, his previous season-high, on Jan. 17 in a 3-2 shootout loss at Detroit.)
Raymond humbly gave the credit on his opening goal to Matt Cooke for a pick in front of the net and the saucer pass that got it going from Ryan Shannon, who also had two points.
The goal, the rookie's sixth and first in eight games, was a confidence booster for Raymond, who is struggling with a fear factor that any mistake could earn him a trip back down to the minors.
"It's day by day to better yourself, but you get a goal under your belt and you get a bit of confidence," said Raymond, who in the third was robbed by Mason's glove on a big blast from the circle.
"I've said this many times before: Confidence can carry you a long way."
It was his first shootout goal -- he was stopped in his only previous attempt against the Islanders.
"I'm happy to get that one in tonight," Raymond said, "to get me back even at 1-1."
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Bieksa makes his early return
Iain MacIntyre details the return of blueliner Kevin Bieksa
There was a commotion at the far corner of the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room after the morning skate. The media was converging on -- was it true? could it be? -- long-lost defenceman Kevin Bieksa
"Yeah, any time you're ready," Canuck Ryan Kesler
called down to Bieksa, whose calf muscle was cleaved open by a skate on Nov. 1.
"Fifteen weeks for 10 stitches," winger Alex Burrows chided.
The Canucks could laugh about it because Bieksa, arguably the National Hockey League's team best defenceman last season, returned to the lineup here Thursday against the Nashville Predators. And this time, Predator Vern Fiddler didn't accidentally step on Bieksa's leg.
"It's really exciting to get out there finally," Bieksa said before the game. "The last five or six games I've been watching I was getting the jitters knowing I was close [to playing]."
The most difficult thing about Bieksa's minor-league conditioning assignment was remembering his hockey gear. Sent to meet the Manitoba Moose for an American League game Wednesday in Chicago, Bieksa was about to board his flight from Minnesota when he realized his gear was back at the hotel.
Kevin and his dad, Al, who travelled with him, quickly retrieved the equipment and rebooked a later flight. Bieksa excelled in the Moose's overtime win that night.
Still, even Canuck coach Alain Vigneault admitted he was a little surprised Bieksa felt ready to return to the NHL after just one game in the minors.
"Kevin, last night, called [Canuck trainer Mike Burnstein] and Burnie called me and said he felt fine and wanted to come back," Vigneault said. "It was all [Bieksa's] call. It was put in his hands: 'When you think you're ready to play and you can follow the pace, then you come back.' "
It was expected Bieksa would play at least two AHL games before declaring himself ready, and playing on consecutive nights after missing 31/2 months didn't seem ideal.
"I can play in the American League; that's what I proved," Bieksa said. "I don't know what another game in the minors would do for me. I got what I wanted out of it. I had my timing and my reads were good. I'm not expecting to be right on top of my game, but I feel confident."
Bieksa logged about 25 minutes on Wednesday. Vigneault said another team's scout, who is friends with Rick Bowness, texted the Canuck assistant coach to tell him Bieksa looked strong in Chicago.
"We're giving him a hard time, but it's nice to have him back," Burrows said. "It's like signing a guy who doesn't cost you anyone out of your lineup. It's like signing Peter Forsberg, but this is even better. Kevin brings so much to our team."
Bieksa's return alongside Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo
and Willie Mitchell gave the Canucks their best four blueliners for just the fourth game this season. The third pairing of Lukas Krajicek (shoulder) and Aaron Miller (foot) remains out.
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Morrison, dad make up for lost time in midair
Iain MacIntyre said the Player-Father road trip provided some time for the Morrison’s to catch up:
Eight years leaves a lot of catching up to do. But Brendan Morrison and his dad, Ron, have been making record time.
The Vancouver Canucks crossed the continent overnight Thursday after the National Hockey League team ended its inaugural fathers-and-sons trip against the Nashville Predators. The Morrisons may need naps today because they expected to spend much of the five-hour flight talking.
"The time we're spending together reminds me of growing up and him coaching me and spending time together at the rink," Brendan said before his teammates played the Predators. "Just chatting on the airplane -- we so rarely get that opportunity. I can't remember the last time I just sat and talked to my dad for two or three hours."
"Almost the whole time since I came home, my mom and dad have been away."
Morrison grew up in Pitt Meadows, coached by his dad until Brendan left for Penticton and the B.C. Junior League when he was 17. He went on to star for four seasons at the University of Michigan before starting his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils.
By the time the Canucks brought Morrison "home" in a March 2000 trade, his parents had moved to Budapest for Ron's work for ATCO, which had opened a modular-building manufacturing plant in the Hungarian city.
"At the time [of the trade], my wife and I analyzed it: 'Is there any way we can go back now?'" Ron Morrison said. "You miss a lot [being away]. I missed the hockey part and I missed the family; we have a daughter as well."
Brendan's folks were able to follow their son's career through a BBC satellite channel, which broadcast North American sports. Four or five times a month, the Canucks would be shown live by the network -- always in the pre-dawn hours. Debbie Morrison would get up in the middle of the night to tape the games, then Ron would watch them after work the next day.
"I think that was pretty tough on him, on my parents, because they were so involved in my hockey," Brendan said. "And we're a pretty tight family. They haven't been able to just watch me play when they want."
Two years ago, Ron was transferred to Calgary. On Jan. 1, he retired and the Morrisons moved back into the family house in Pitt Meadows. Brendan and his sister, Jennifer, and their families live nearby.
Still, it looked like the Morrisons' father-and-son moment might be scuttled by Brendan's wrist injury. He underwent surgery in December and isn't expected to play until mid-March.
"I didn't think I was going to be here because, typically, the injured players are left home," Ron said. "But it says a lot about the organization [to take Brendan on the trip]. This whole thing has been first class.
"Talking to the other dads, they're all saying the same thing: It's the best chance they've had to visit with their sons in years. Maybe ever."
SHOCK AND AWE: The luxury of the Canucks' charter travel has made a lasting impression on many of the dads.
"When we left Vancouver, I got on the plane and there was all kinds of food for us," Lane Linden, Trevor's dad, said. "So I ate it. Then after we took off they brought out the actual meal. If I didn't eat the rest of the trip, I think I'd have been okay."
Markus Naslund's dad, Sture, said the NHL should stand for "Not Hungry League."
So, who's on the Vancouver Canucks' radar at trading time?
Ben Kuzma previews possible deadline deals:
Assuming Dave Nonis won't part with a hefty package to land Mats Sundin -- and Brad Richards trade rumours are a giant leap of faith because he's making $7.8 million US the next three seasons -- expect the Canucks GM to land a second-tier forward before Tuesday's deadline.
A look at three unrestricted free agents who might fit the need with the team at $2.7 million under the cap of $50.3 million:
VACLAV PROSPAL (Tampa Bay, RW, 32, $1.9 m)
Upside: With Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards eating up $20.9 million and Dan Boyle due a big increase, Prospal will look elsewhere this summer. With 56 points [28-28] through 60 games he'd help as a rental, but he'd cost a player.
Downside: Although he has a no-trade clause, Richards may get moved. That would mean Prospal could re-sign.
MARK RECCHI (Atlanta, RW, 40, $1.75 m)
Upside: With 25 points in his first 32 games since being claimed on re-entry waivers from Pittsburgh on Dec.8, the Kamloops native could spark the second power-play unit. The Thrashers were on the hook for only half of Recchi's salary on re-entry waivers so there's very little left on his deal. And he might not command much.
Downside: Marian Hossa, Bobby Holik and Recchi are mentioned most in Atlanta rumours, but GM Don Waddell wants to re-sign all three. Possible, but not probable.
MICHAEL RYDER (Montreal, RW, 27, $2.95 m)
Upside: Will cost as much as a roster player or as little as a draft pick. A classic underachiever with 11 goals through 51 games, after two 30-goal campaigns, the right-hand shot would benefit the power play.
Downside: If a player had to go to make a deal happen here, would Nonis really part with Luc Bourdon?