Linden provides veteran leadership: Pep talk before Saturday's game sparks team to 4-3 victory
Ben Kuzma said Linden's leadership produced an inspired performance in Dallas:
Trevor Linden didn't hit the scoresheet Saturday, but he still collected an assist.
A healthy scratch in five previous games -- and 21 overall in a season of disconnect for the Masterton Trophy candidate -- the veteran Vancouver Canucks forward addressed his teammates before a 4-3 victory in Dallas.
Coach Alain Vigneault didn't realize Linden decided to pump up his peers.
"I knew they closed the door, but I didn't know who it was [who spoke]," said Vigneault. "It was obviously the right thing to do."
With the Canucks coming off a listless 2-0 loss in Phoenix on Thursday, Linden sensed the urgency for a bounce-back effort. He must have punched all the right buttons because the Canucks stormed to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
"I know how hard the guys work and how much pressure they put on themselves to perform," Linden said following a Sunday practice at GM Place.
"Obviously, I've been in a situation where you're expected to score and I know what it's like. I just had some thoughts for those guys and our group in how to approach things.
"I know what they're putting into it and I know how frustrating it is when it doesn't go their way, and certainly like a game in Phoenix."
Markus Naslund and Daniel Sedin
entered Saturday's game without a goal in 11 games and Henrik Sedin
had just an empty-net goal in his last 15. But Naslund erupted for three points on a new line with Brendan Morrison and Matt Pettinger that combined for nine points.
Daniel played with Ryan Kesler
and Alex Burrows, while Henrik played between Mason Raymond
and Taylor Pyatt. Linden wasn't taking credit for helping anyone bust a slump.
"I didn't have anything technical to add," said Linden. "These are very smart players. Sometimes where your mind is and where it gets to after struggling, a lot of it is just having the right frame of mind heading into things.
"Any player worth his salt, expects a lot out of himself. When you talk about Henrik or Daniel or Markus or Pyatt, these are good players. And I don't think it helps the situation when you have the pressure from the fans and the media -- but that's natural and that's what you expect.
"It's tough. You have to get your head around certain things and sometimes the weight just gets a little heavy."
Linden, 37, could have just as easily been talking about himself. After playing strong down the stretch last season and leading all Canuck forwards with seven playoff points, he seemed to be getting mixed messages in the offseason.
Vigneault didn't want to compromise the situation by committing to Linden too early. He then signed a one-year, $600,000 contract that would have paid out an additional $350,000 had he reached a games-played plateau.
Instead of working toward that bonus, Linden had to work at keeping his head up and mouth shut to be the consummate team player he's become famous for.
"I can't deny the fact that it's been difficult," said Linden. "It's not about my situation. It's about the team and getting to where we want to be, and that's the playoffs.
"The important thing when you're not playing is to try and be positive and supportive and stay out of the way."
All this doesn't surprise Kevin Bieksa
. A potential future captain, the blueliners lauded Linden's pre-game speech.
"You need contributions from everybody and a guy like Trevor -- whether he's in the lineup or not -- is a leader. Guys listen when he speaks.
"Having him back in the lineup was a huge boost for us and the leadership he brought before and during the game was huge."
Everyone appreciates Mitchell, especially dentist: Four teeth knocked loose, sore ankle -- all from one shift
The Province said Willie Mitchell will most likely have to wear a full-shield visor as a result of a character-defining shift:
Willie Mitchell took one for the team Saturday. That wasn't surprising.
The fact the always quotable defenceman wasn't at practice Sunday to describe his heroics in detail was surprising.
"He's having his teeth fixed and he'll probably have to play with a full visor," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "He'll be fine."
Mitchell endeared himself to his teammates -- and anybody watching the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast -- for taking a puck in the mouth and a shot off the ankle in the same late-game sequence to preserve a 4-3 win in Dallas.
The heroics resulted in four teeth being pushed out of alignment and one sore ankle.
"It was a great play and a play we needed at that time," added Vigneault. "And I'm sure his teammates and anybody who saw it appreciated it. It's the effort we need at this time of year from all our players."
With 7:37 remaining in regulation time, a Brad Richards power-play shot in the high slot deflected off Mitchell's stick and struck him in the mouth. He then collided with teammate Ryan Kesler
and crashed to the ice.
Already dripping blood, Mitchell staggered to his skates and then took a Niklas Hagman slapshot from the point off his right ankle. Once Mitchell cleared the puck, he stumbled to the bench and had to be pushed in by Alex Burrows.
And when the camera focused on Mitchell at the bench, blood flowed from his mouth like a faucet and his stained jersey looked like he had been shot.
Mitchell had 30:19 of ice time that included three shots, three blocked shots and two big hits.
Pronger got what he deserved: Kesler
Iain Macintyre said Kesler supports the suspension of Chris Pronger:Ryan Kesler
added his 20th goal and Chris Pronger lost $600,000 in salary. It was a satisfying Saturday for the Vancouver Canuck.
Kesler stuck a rebound under Dallas Stars goalie Johan Holmqvist in the first period, a few hours after the National Hockey League stuck the Anaheim Ducks' Pronger with an eight-game suspension for dropping his skate like a guillotine on Kesler's leg during a game last Wednesday.
The eighth suspension of Pronger's career was 22 games lighter than the record ban former New York Islander Chris Simon received in December for stomping on the ankle of Pittsburgh Penguin Jarkko Ruutu. But Kesler, who limped to the bench after the incident and wasn't injured, refused to denounce the sentence.
"That's deserved," he said of the suspension. "The league usually does a good job [determining] the right amount of games. Either way, it happened, and I know what happened and he knows what happened. He probably feels what he did was wrong."
With Pronger, you never know. The defenceman is one of the league's best and dirtiest players. He was suspended twice for head shots during last year's playoffs but wasn't even penalized in November when he cross-checked Kesler from behind as the Canuck had his arms raised after a goal.
After that game, Pronger took his condescending act into the locker room where he challenged reporters about whether he had actually cross-checked Kesler.
Wednesday's incident did not appear as calculated as Simon's attack on Ruutu. Kesler was partly responsible for Pronger's skates getting entangled in his legs after the Canuck fell while delivering a check.
Asked where stepping on another player ranks among hockey crimes, Kesler said: "It's top of the list. A skate blade is the most dangerous part of the equipment. You shouldn't use it for something like that. I'm just fortunate nothing happened to me and I was able to keep playing."
Even for Pronger the despicable act was surprising considering the profile of Simon's incident and a current accidental skate-cut injury to Ducks forward Corey Perry.
Jaffray scores, adds assist as Moose defeat Bears 3-1 in AHL action
The Canadian Press talks about Manitoba’s victory over the Bears:
Jason Jaffray had a goal and an assist as the Manitoba Moose beat the Hershey Bears 3-1 in American Hockey League action Sunday. Jannik Hansen
and Colby Genoway, into an empty net, also scored for Manitoba (38-24-2-3), while Brad Moran added two assists.
Scott Barney replied for Hershey (34-27-1-5). Cory Schneider
made 30 saves for Manitoba, while Daren Machesney stopped 31 shots for Hershey.