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Press Round-Up: MAR.24.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
THE PROVINCE
Sanford set if Luongo gets baby call


The Province said Curtis Sanford is ready to play in place of Papa Luongo:

The plan to play Roberto Luongo in seven remaining regular-season games in a push toward another division title is the perfect psychological ploy to frustrate the opposition.

The workhorse Vancouver Canucks stopper is certainly up for the challenge. However, that doesn't mean we've seen the last of backup Curtis Sanford.

The Canucks have a plan in place when the call comes that Luongo is about to become a father when his wife, Gina, gives birth back in Florida to a girl. She is due the first week of April and the team finishes its regular-season schedule with games at GM Place on March 30 and April 1, 3 and 5. Which, of course, makes it interesting and brings us back to Sanford.

He logged 35:46 in Anaheim six games ago and hasn't played an entire game since Jan. 11 against Phoenix.

Even though he's appeared in just 13 games, Sanford will tell you he's soaked up a wealth of knowledge about preparation from Luongo.

"He's rising to each occasion and is the backbone of the team," said Sanford. "I knew he was good, but this has really opened my eyes. To be able to work with a guy like this is pretty huge for me."
THE PROVINCE
Bieksa looking to find former form: He came back from lacerated calf in good time but is still adjusting

Ben Kuzma said Kevin Bieksa is beginning to find his form:

If those in his inner circle had their way, Kevin Bieksa would have shut his season down after surgery and a long prognosis for recovery from a freak Nov. 1 lacerated-calf injury.

"It was brought up by a few people -- my father, my wife and my agent -- but it's something I never considered," said the gritty Canucks defenceman, sidelined for 46 games after being sliced by the skate of Nashville's Vernon Fiddler.

"When I came out of surgery and the doctor made my wife tell me how long I was going to be out -- because at that time I thought it was going to be a week or two and she told me four to six months -- I was obviously shocked and upset.

"But right away I thought: 'What time of the season is that when I get back? How many weeks before playoffs?' I was coming back, no matter what."

That's Bieksa, who can feel his game starting to come around. And it couldn't come at a better time with Lukas Krajicek, Mattias Ohlund and Aaron Miller sidelined. Bieksa has logged more than 26, 27 and 28 minutes in his past 10 outings, compared to a season average of 22:48.

However, it hasn't been an easy road to recovery. Bieksa was a minus-3 in a Feb. 29 loss to Columbus. He then collected a goal and 32 minutes in penalties in a 6-2 romp over Nashville on March 6 and had two assists in a 3-1 win over Phoenix a week ago.

"The leg is fine and I can't use that as an excuse," said Bieksa.

"It has healed and where it goes from here, who knows? But it's definitely OK to play with and it hasn't hindered me."

What has hurt Bieksa is his sense of timing with so much now on the line. With a good sprinkling of Ed Jovanovski in his game, Bieksa's play can be high-risk, high-reward, and his minus-7 is worst among all Canuck blueliners.

He also has just seven points in 27 games and didn't get off to a great start. He was a minus-6 in his first three outings. And when Bieksa returned from surgery on Feb. 21 at Nashville, he found the pace of the game had been ramped up.

"I remember talking to Alain [coach Vigneault] and he said: 'It's not the same kind of game when you left.' It's a playoff atmosphere now and guys are intense and are playing for a playoff spot.

"Maybe that's why it's taking me a little bit longer than usual to kind of get back. It took between five to 10 games where I started feeling a little bit more comfortable and my reads now are where it's second nature to make a bank pass or pick a puck off the boards. I feel pretty good way that way.”
THE PROVINCE
Cowan called on to offer grit: View from the pressbox gave Vancouver forward ideas to apply on ice

Ben Kuzma said Jeff Cowan is working to apply lessons from the box on the ice:

A little more Barbarian in the Bra-barian may help salvage a sour season for Jeff Cowan.

A healthy scratch 14 times this season and sidelined 24 games by hip-flexor and shoulder ailments, the Vancouver Canucks winger got a welcome reprieve on March 15 in Dallas.

Coach Alain Vigneault decided to ice a tougher lineup and that grittier component could keep Cowan from a pressbox perch.

"It's been a challenging year for sure with my injuries and trying to battle through being a healthy scratch," said Cowan, who has been a fourth-line fixture the past four games on a line with Rick Rypien and Trevor Linden.

"It's just nice to be back in the lineup. I'm trying to bring that energy back and that will, passion and energy that creates things out there. That's what I'm going to try and do."

"You've got to learn fromit," he said. "I sat up in the pressbox and watched the Anaheim [March 12] and Phoenix [March 13] games and took a little something from that. I'm going to try to apply that to my game."

What Vigneault wants isn't complicated. Forecheck aggressively, stay out of the penalty box and stick up for your teammates. If offence comes from all that, it's a bonus.

"We like that toughness element and we didn't like how we reacted in Anaheim and Phoenix," said Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness.

"We took steps to correct that and we won't let it happen again. The other team is now looking at the board and seeing Cowan and Rypien and [Nathan] McIver and they're going to be ready to battle."

That has allowed skilled Canucks forwards to play with more confidence, knowing they're not going to be intimidated in seven remaining division games.

"They know they're not going to get abused," added Bowness. "If they do, then we're going to start abusing other guys because there are guys willing to step up in that room."
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