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Press Round-Up: MAR.10.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Morrison's mojo rising as wrist heals: Pain 'not the issue,' just strength and confidence for NHL battle

Ben Kuzma said Morrison will return once fully confident in the strength of his injured-wrist:

Brendan Morrison passed one range-of-motion test on his surgically repaired right wrist Saturday at GM Place.

With a flock of fans gathered at the railing to get his autograph following a morning skate, the Vancouver Canucks centre had to reach high to scribble his surname for several minutes.

If that was the only hurdle remaining for Morrison after missing 37 games, he would return to the lineup tonight in Los Angeles. But he still has to clear strength and confidence obstacles.

"As long as I'm comfortable in my mind that it's not going to get re-injured -- which I think we're at that point now -- then it's just a matter of me being confident enough to engage in battles," said Morrison.

As much as the Canucks have attempted to replicate that in practice, it doesn't compare to the actual stresses and strains of NHL competition.

"You can design all types of drills, but until you get into a game with everything elevated, you're not really going to get a good sense," he said.

While Morrison hopes to play during a four-game road trip this week, he couldn't commit to whether that would occur tonight in Los Angeles, Wednesday in Anaheim, Thursday in Phoenix or Saturday in Dallas.

It's not that Morrison can't manage pain. He struggled through a hip-flexor injury before needing offseason surgery in 2006 and needed an operation to cure a sports hernia last summer. Morrison doesn't want to just play, he wants to make a difference.

"Pain to me is not the issue -- I can deal with pain," he added. "I'm not going to feel 100 per cent and I understand that and the team understands that.

"You don't want to declare yourself good to go and not be strong on the puck -- especially at this time of year. And that's what we're working on right now.

"If a guy does get a step on me, can I lift his stick? That was the problem before. I was so hesitant to even reach and try to lift and every time I did that, [the wrist] would pop out.

"That's kind of ingrained in my mind and that motion is something I have to get through. [The injury] can happen again, but the chances are pretty slim."

Morrison was injured Sept. 26 in a preseason game against San Jose, but kept playing. Treatments did little to alleviate the pain and after a Dec. 10 game, he had surgery four days later.

The band that holds six tendons in place in Morrison's right wrist tore. The outside tendon kept subluxing and coming out of a groove, and also tore.

Meanwhile, Morrison knows he has much to prove down the stretch -- to himself, teammates and management -- and being an unrestricted free agent will only intensify the focus on the Pitt Meadows native.

At 32, he'll command attention because the market is short on depth and long in the tooth. And even though Morrison could pocket more elsewhere, he's open to contract-extension discussions.

"We haven't talked, but it's hard to," said Morrison. "This [surgery] is a bit of an unknown on how it's going to proceed but we'll get around to it.

"This is the ideal spot and not just because I'm from here. I believe we have the team that can do some damage in the playoffs. We have a good makeup, and with some timely scoring, we'll be dangerous."

If Morrison helps supply that, everything could fall into place for him and the Canucks.
Playing in pain just an occupational hazard: Workhorse defenceman soldiers on with sore knee

Ben Kuzma said Mattias Ohlund is prepared to play through pain:

No pain, no gain.

That caption should accompany any image of Mattias Ohlund.

Long the champion of ignoring injury for the greater good, the Vancouver Canucks workhorse hopes to add another chapter to his battered-and-bruised biography tonight in Los Angeles.

Instead of missing at least a week because floating bone chips in his left knee caused significant swelling -- calling for rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs -- Ohlund did what he has so often done in a 4-2 win over St. Louis on Saturday. He shrugged off pain and soldiered on.

Ohlund opened the scoring and logged 23:54 of ice time. He then logged significant minutes in the medical room to keep the knee from flaring up and avoid arthroscopic surgery until the offseason.

"I felt fine," said Ohlund, who didn't play Thursday against Nashville. "It's not a big deal and hopefully I can deal with it at the end of the season.

"I needed to take a few days to settle down the swelling, and once I did that, I felt good enough to play. We'll take it one day at a time. The knee is stable. The only problem I run into is that the knee keeps getting swelled up, but I'm not going to hurt myself more.

"I just have to ice it and the odd time I might need a day off."

Unless the knee balloons, it's hard to imagine Ohlund missing any games on a crucial four-game road trip. After all, he's been down this road before.

Ohlund had bone chips removed from underneath his left kneecap following a collision in a 3-2 loss to San Jose on Feb. 27, 2003. It ended a club-record 14-game unbeaten streak. Ohlund missed the final 18 regular-season games, but appeared in 13 playoff games that spring and had seven points. He started the following season with a knee brace and took maintenance days to strengthen the knee. He played all 82 games for the first time in his career.

When Ohlund suffered a cracked rib and shoulder injury Feb. 22, 2006, at the Winter Olympics, he missed just four games and logged an eye-popping 30:54 in his first game back against Nashville. Seven games later, he played 31:26 against Edmonton.

Last spring, Ohlund didn't appear to be labouring as the playoffs progressed -- he tied Trevor Linden with a team-high seven points -- but required sports hernia surgery on May 28. Earlier this season, Ohlund missed 11 games with a concussion.

Getting Ohlund to open up about injuries is like pulling teeth. To him, it's an occupational hazard he prefers not to dwell on -- even though he has only 70 per cent vision in his right eye after being struck by a stick in a 1999 preseason game at Ottawa.

"A lot of guys have stuff going on," he shrugged. "You like to play every game and you accept the fact you're injured. You try to be positive and move on."
The Beat-the-Blues Brothers: Linemates Kesler, Burrows look to be on a mission this season
Elliott Pap speaks to the insopired play of Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler:

The chemistry between Canuck forwards Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows is so good these days you'd think they were twins, perhaps separated at birth. Not so, insists Burrows.

"I don't have as big a nose as he does, that's for sure," pointed out the 26-year-old Burrows, a bilingual native of Montreal.

"I think his nose is probably bigger than mine," countered Kesler, the 23-year-old from suburban Detroit. "We may have to have a 'nose-off' for that one."

Kesler is definitely nosed out by Burrows in language fluency. His French is limited, he said, to two words.

"Bonjour and fermez la bouche, or something like that," Kesler chuckled, even though it was four words.

Whatever the case -- and we'll forget about Kesler's math -- he and Burrows have it going right now. Despite being on the checking line and having a rotating third linemate, the duo has combined for 11 points in the last seven games and is plus-8.

"I think it started two years ago when we were playing on a line with Bert [Todd Bertuzzi], if you remember," Kesler said. "We had some chemistry and it just seemed to grow from there. Alex has worked very hard to reach this point and I think he's very under-rated for what he brings to the team and what he brings every night. He's great at what he does."

Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault is also a big fan.

"He contributes at both ends of the rink because he competes really hard every night and lays it out," said the coach. "I told him at the exit meetings last year that if he didn't pick it up there was a chance he wasn't going to start with the Canucks. He did everything he could to come to camp in great shape."

Burrows had nine points all of last season. He has 27 now with 14 games remaining
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