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Press Round-Up: MAR.19.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Raymond focuses on rehabbing knee, not on any retribution

Jason Botchford said Mason Raymond is focusing on rehabbing his knee to get back as soon as possible:

Mason Raymond was unwilling to enter the debate on whether Keith Ballard's knee-on-knee hit was cheap and dirty. He has more important things to be concerned about.

"I'm already looking forward to getting back on the ice," Raymond said. "I haven't had a look at the hit. It's something the league will look at. I need to focus on getting healthy and training. I hope to be back as soon as possible."

He suffered a second-degree sprain of his MCL when the Coyotes defenceman stuck out his knee, upending the Canucks rookie along the boards Monday.

It looked like Ballard was getting ready for a hip-check but miscalculated Raymond's speed.

There was no penalty called, leaving coach Alain Vigneault Incredulous. During his post-game interview he called the hit "dirty."

Vigneault said Canucks general manager Dave Nonis texted the league about the incident, which was reviewed. There was no decision announced regarding possible disciplinary action.

The injury ends Raymond's surprising rookie campaign. He has played well enough during the past two months to wedge himself into the regular lineup, alleviating concerns he couldn't handle tougher opponents. In 49 games, Raymond scored nine goals and 21 points.

"It's disappointing," he said. "This is the best time of the year to be playing. It's playoff hockey. Guys are working hard. This is what you play for. I hope to be back on the ice as soon as possible. It depends on how my knee holds up."

Recovery is expected to take four weeks, meaning Raymond will only play again if the Canucks have playoff success.

Vigneault will likely replace Raymond with Ryan Shannon.
Coach rallies troops for last push: 'This group of players and this team is not getting credit it deserves'

Ben Kuzma said Coach Alain Vigneault believes in his team and says they are not getting the credit they deserve:

It started with an innocent question about the contribution of depth defenceman Mike Weaver.

It ended with a surprise summation from Alain Vigneault that his battered-and-bruised club isn't getting the credit it deserves for remaining in contention for another Northwest Division title.

Call it Team Togetherness Tuesday. Call it the perfect rallying cry.

The Canucks have lost 137 man-games to injury on their back end and may play their nine remaining regular-season games without Lukas Krajicek, Mattias Ohlund and Aaron Miller.

"Throughout most of the year we had half of our top six [defencemen] out and we've had guys who have played through significant pain -- whether it be Willie [Mitchell] in Dallas or Ohlie with the knee," said the usually calm and cautious Vigneault.

"I could go on and on and on about this defensive corps. For us to still be in the race for first place in our division, this group of players and this team is not getting the credit it deserves.

"You look at Detroit, who went down a couple of Ds and they went 1-8-2. For us to be right there, it says so much about this group about their commitment to one another and their commitment to the city. We've got three top-six guys out right now and we're very competitive."
His troops are only two points out of the division lead.

However, with Krajicek lost for the season to shoulder surgery, Ohlund sidelined for the regular season with knee surgery Thursday and Miller suffering a potential season-ending labrum tear in his shoulder, the Canucks are more vulnerable.

Ohlund leads the team with 23:46 in average ice time and Miller has been a free-agent find with 17:20 of ice time and steady play. They're both good down low and the Canucks will be tested in that respect.

Still, the Canucks are a league-best 25-0-1 when leading after two periods and are 12-6-5 against Northwest Division competition. But they're only 2-4-2 in their last eight division outings and have been outscored 26-19. Which brings us back to the Weaver query.

A depth move when claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, Weaver has played 47 games. Monday in the 3-1 win over Phoenix, he logged 14:01 and had three shots.

"I thought Mike's game was one of the best I've seen him play this year and it says a lot about him staying ready," said Vigneault. "Given everything we've faced and how we've responded in challenging situations, I think we're in a great spot. We've got all the teams that we need to play against coming up. I know this group is going to play hard. As a coach, that's all you can ask of your players and they've given that to me 90 to 95 per cent of the time."

As a player, that's all you can hope to hear from your coach.
Splitting twins opens offensive door: Who are the other teams' top defenders going to cover now?

The Province said that the separation of the Sedin’s gives the Canucks three lines that can score:

The Sedin twins believe they are better together. But for the first time in their careers there is evidence to the contrary.

The move, once unthinkable, to partially split them was born out of sheer desperation. It was a last-ditch effort to try to goose them out of a prolonged slump. How well it works and how long it lasts remain filed under To Be Determined.

But there is a growing contingent of people who believe the Canucks have stumbled on to something. In the process of shattering a long-held urban legend -- that you can't have one without the other -- the Canucks may have found the best of both worlds.

To their critics' glee, the Sedins have been forced to park their clock-grinding cycle game for now. They looked good without it, and without each other, in Monday's 3-1 win over Phoenix.

More encouraging than their play, however, was the fascinating matchup problems the Canucks created. A long-locked door was opened and a myriad of options were revealed on the other side.

"Who are you going to put your best defencemen up against?" Daniel said. "Who are you going to put your best checking line against? It raises some questions. It does create some problems for the other team. If you can get three lines scoring, I know it's a lot better than having one, or even two. We have to look at this as an opportunity. And we have to take advantage of this opportunity."

Most troubling for Canucks opponents, is that the twins have not been totally cut off. They will still play together on power plays. They will play on the same line after penalties. They will still be together during 4-on-4s. When Henrik scored his two goals Monday, there was Daniel at his side, assisting him.

Drawing up game plans to defend the Canucks just became a lot more difficult and complex.

Daniel also took advantage Monday, creating chances as he was finally freed from playing against an opponent's best defenders.

"I thought [Monday's] game was one of Daniel's best games in a long time here," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who doesn't plan on changes Thursday against the Oilers in Edmonton. "I think he had seven scoring chances on his own. That's quite a bit in this league. So, there is some chemistry there with Ryan [Kesler] and Alex [Burrows]. You know, those three lines right now, we have pretty good balance.

"I think it makes it a little bit more challenging for the opposition right now. ... The last two games, I've really liked the look of our offence."
The Sedins wanted the chance to work out of their slump together. They lost that right, it can be argued, by scoring just one empty-net goal in 11 games. For now, they are willing to try to make the most of a situation that has opened up some new opportunities.

"We haven't got a lot of chances off the rush this year, mainly because we're always going against checking lines and they are going to have five guys back," Daniel said. "For us, it's been no other choice but to get pucks deep and go from there. It's nice playing with Kes and Burr, the game opens up. It was nice to get some 3-on-2s, and some 2-on-1s.

"When you go through a slump like we have you try everything. I think we started to lean on each other too much and I believe this will help us out in the long run."

"They're pretty special when they're on the same line but I think right now we have three legitimate scoring lines," Kesler said. "I think teams will have trouble matching that. You saw it the past two games. Any given night, any line can step up."

Kesler said his role has not changed even though he is playing with the team's leading scorer.

"We can't get away from what we've been doing and we're going to continue to go against the other team's top line," Kesler said.

"I think, with Daniel on our line, we're going to end up spending more time in their zone. He's a special player."
Against Oilers 'we're going to ice a lineup that can take care of itself,' says coach

Ben Kuzma said the Canucks will ice a gritty lineup in anticipation of a physical game:

How anxious is Alex Burrows to butt heads with the Oilers Thursday? He thought the game was tonight.

With their nine remaining regular-season games all against Northwest Division competition, the Canucks could claim another division title or miss the postseason. It's that tight.

"It's going to be really exciting and a playoff atmosphere right until the end," said Burrows. "There's going to be a lot of grit and a lot of guys who want to lay it out on the line."

And a lot of fights in Edmonton?

"Maybe, a little bit of that, too," he added. "But the bottom line is we want to get the two points and if we have to fight to get them, we will."

In their last meeting on Feb. 16 at GM Place, the Canucks and Oilers combined for 193 penalty minutes in a 4-2 Vancouver win. There were seven bouts -- five in the final minute.

That memory is fresh in the mind of Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.

"We're going to ice a lineup that can take care of itself and go in and play a hard game," he promised.
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