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Press Round-Up: FEB.29.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Burrows hit by NHL: Winger fined for pre-game tussle with Red Wings last week
Brad Ziemer said Alex Burrows has been fined by the NHL for his pre-game antics:

You knew something was up when winger Alex Burrows walked into the Canucks dressing room Thursday with a scowl on his face and started firing his equipment at his locker-room stall.

Burrows, it turned out, had just received a phone call from NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and was informed that both he and the Canucks were being fined for a pre-game incident with the Detroit Red Wings last Saturday at General Motors Place.

Detroit forward Aaron Downey and the Red Wings were also fined. Campbell said in an e-mail the league would not release the amount of the fines.

Burrows, who claimed not to know how much he was being dinged, said he hopes Downey got a bigger fine than he did. Downey appeared to spark the incident when he speared Burrows during the pre-game skate. Players from both teams converged at centre ice and there was some pushing and shoving.

"The league looked at the incident and they thought I should be fined, so I will pay the fine and we'll move on," Burrows said after calming down. "I'm looking forward to seeing what he gets and what I get. If we both get the same, I'll disagree."

The NHL warned players and teams that it would take a hard line on any pre-game on-ice incidents after New York Rangers forward Sean Avery instigated a skirmish before a game in Toronto last November.

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault joked that the game has changed since his days in the Quebec Junior league.

" I remember when I was playing junior you'd have five brawls per year in warm-up and at least five or six when the puck was dropped," said Vigneault, who added he was not surprised by the fines. "The league had sent a memo out after the Avery incident in Toronto and warned every team and player if something happens, walk away. Burr has a tough time turning the other cheek and walking away."

Defenceman Aaron Miller pronounced himself fit after Thursday's practice and said he expects to play tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Miller has been out since suffering a hairline foot fracture on Feb. 1.

"I have got three good skates in and it's feeling better every day," Miller said. "We'll have to see what the coaches say now, but I think the foot is ready to go. I wasn't thinking about it at all today, which is a big change from four or five days ago, so it is really coming around."

Miller said his main challenge is conditioning. He has been wearing a boot on his foot since suffering the injury and hasn't been able to ride the exercise bike.

"That's why I'd love to get into a game because there's really no way to get in game shape, [except for] playing games. I'm itching to get back in there, so hopefully tomorrow night I'm in."

Centre Henrik Sedin took some ribbing from teammates over his play on Burrows' third-period goal Wednesday night. Replays made it appear Sedin was trying to pull the puck back out of the net after it had just crossed the goal-line.

"The guys were giving it to him this morning," Burrows said. "It was pretty funny. He said he thought it was a career high for me in goals, so he just took it to make sure we didn't lose the puck. He said he was trying to save the puck for me."
Is avoiding shootouts the answer?: Vigneault says money shot can't be rehearsed, but some players disagree

Jason Botchford said Canucks must look to amend shootout woes:

Alain Vigneault has come up with a plan to remedy the Canucks' shootout woes -- avoid them.

Vigneault indicated Thursday -- a day after the Canucks lost their league-worst ninth shootout of the year -- that the team planned to try to win more games in overtime by pinching their defencemen more aggressively in an attempt to avoid the skills competition.

If that doesn't work?

"We'll throw some guys over the boards and hope they can do the job for us [in the shootout]," Vigneault said.

The Canucks, like many teams in the league, don't exactly treat shootouts like a science. They practised the skill Thursday in a drill that only loosely resembled what happens in games. The Canucks split into two squads with players rushing onto the ice one by one, each taking a breakaway at full speed. The losing squad did pushups.

There's no work on honing technique. There are no regular video sessions. For that, players are on their own.

"More than anything, when you're sitting down at dinner at Earl's you can watch the highlights and they show the shootout highlights and from that you can get an idea on how to beat goaltenders," Ryan Shannon said when asked how he prepares for shootouts. "From those highlights, you can see how to beat goaltenders and what might be open during the shootout."

One of the biggest issues the Canucks face is that they can't lean on Roberto Luongo to win them shootouts as heavily as they do in games. Luongo's shootout career record is average. He is 15-15 with a .714 save percentage.

That means there's more onus on the Canucks forwards who, with one big exception, have an abysmal success rate.

Shannon, who has missed four shootout opportunities in a row, was part of the curious duo the Canucks used in Wednesday's loss.

Shannon and Mason Raymond missed for the Canucks, while Trevor Linden, one of the league's real shootout specialists, never got a chance to shoot.

Vigneault said he kept Linden in the third slot because that's where the former captain is most comfortable, although in the NHL's three-year shootout history, the team that scores first wins more than 80 per cent of the games.

"Shooting in a shootout is never comfortable whether you're first or third, I don't know about that," said Linden, when asked if he likes the third slot. "It's a decision [Vigneault] makes.

"I was there watching in overtime, watching [Jose Theodore]. I played with him. I was thinking about what I was going to do."

Linden is tied for the league lead with five shootout goals in nine attempts for a 55.6 per cent success rate. The rest of the team is successful just 17 per cent of the time. The league average is nearly double at 32.13 per cent.

Most troublesome for the Canucks are the shootout records of their two best goal scorers. Markus Naslund and Daniel Sedin are each just one for five this season. Sedin indicated he felt he could be helped by studying video and practising.

"It could be good to watch goalies on video a few days before to see how he handles the shooter," Sedin said. "Does he come out hard? Does he stay back? It's something maybe we should take a look at.

"You should have two or three moves and practise those until you have them down to perfection. That can give you confidence. It's something I have to be better at.

"It's costing us points. We need players who can go out there and score." Ryan Kesler, who has scored just once in nine chances (11 per cent), said he doesn't believe players can practise the shootout because there is no way to gauge how a goalie will play. It's a sentiment Vigneault shares, to a degree.

"The shootout is a different beast," Vigneault said. "It's tough in practice to recreate the ambiance, the atmosphere and the pressure players get during games. Obviously, our record this year is not where we hope it to be."

But the Oilers' Sam Gagner, who grew up with shootout in minor hockey and in the OHL, disagreed.

"Oh yeah, you sure can practise shootouts," said Gagner on a recent visit to Vancouver. "I do all the time. I have five moves I can use and having that is a real help."
Players understand Louie's angst: 'You're on the right team when your best player wants it that bad'

Ben Kuzma said teammates understand Luongo’s frustration and admire his passion:

His image towers on the north face of GM Place and his growing reputation in the dressing room is just as immense.

Roberto Luongo makes no apologies for being frank in the face of any loss, especially a bitter one like the 3-2 shootout setback to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

A day after labelling the breakdown that led to Joe Sakic's tying goal with 14.7 seconds remaining in regulation time unacceptable and inexcusable, you had to wonder if the Vancouver Canucks' workhorse goaltender was taking dead aim at his teammates.

"First of all, I don't throw my teammates under the bus," said Luongo. "We all work hard and try to do the right things out there and work for each other. Obviously, it was a tough way to lose and I was upset. I take losing seriously and I don't enjoy it. We're a team and I respect my teammates and what they do out there. I'd never single out anybody."

The avid poker and fantasy football participant takes the same approach to those pursuits. Loves to win. Hates to lose.

Just ask Mitchell or Burrows.

"He takes everything hard and he knows it a few [fantasy football] times from me," chuckled Mitchell.

Still, the blueliner could have taken exception to the notion poor coverage resulted in a squandered chance to move four points ahead of the Avs instead of being one up.

"Why would I take it personally? Sakic shouldn't score at the end of the game," said Mitchell. "Players like that [Luongo] with a fire in their belly hate to lose and I love those players. That's the difference between a winner and a loser. You're on the right team when your best player wants it that bad."

Bad enough to be ranked fourth in shutouts (6) and save percentage (.923), fifth in goals-against average (2.18) and seventh in wins (28). Luongo had a 1.70 GAA during the team's recent four-game win streak and the loss to the Avs overshadowed several highlight-reel saves.

Credit Luongo for taking the reins as the highest-paid Canuck. The dressing room, divided in the past, seems united behind him.

"We've got a lot of quiet guys in this locker-room and it's always good when Louie steps up," said Burrows. "When we see that he's mad, guys want to give it a little bit more." Luongo's ridden a roller coaster of emotion. There's the delicate pregnancy of his wife Gina, back home in Florida, which led to him passing on the all-star game amid some criticism. There was the return to face the Panthers to start this month and intense scrutiny in a 6-1-4 month that often had Luongo defending his play. But while he'll tell you losing to the Avs is tough, losing in poker to Burrows is just as bad.

"It's not only in hockey, but in anything I do," he said. "Any time I'm involved in anything I want to be the best. And when I lose I'm not a happy camper."

Which could make the Canucks winners more often than not.
Jason Jaffray registers hat trick as Moose double Bears 4-2
The Canadian Press discusses Jason Jaffray’s dominance in last night’s Manitoba Moose game:

Jason Jaffray tallied a hat trick to lead the Manitoba Moose over the Hershey Bears 4-2 Thursday in the AHL.

Jaffray scored a goal in each period for the Moose, who earned a split of their two-game home set with the Bears. Manitoba moved one point up on Hamilton for second place in the North Division and avenged a 4-3 loss to Hershey on Wednesday. Jaffray opened the game's scoring at 3:35 of the first period, tallied a power-play goal in the second stanza, and completed the hat trick at 11:11 of the third.
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