THE VANCOUVER SUN
Star goalies won’t face off
Brad Ziemer notes that Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire won’t be playing against each other tonight at GM Place because Leclaire hit the injury list not to long ago.
“Leclaire suffered a right hamstring injury late in the second period of Monday night's 3-1 loss in Edmonton and will not dress tonight. Fredrik Norrena will get the start and the Blue Jackets called up Tomas Popperle from Syracuse in the AHL to serve as backup,” said Ziemer.
“Leclaire has been one of the big reasons for the franchise-best 11-9-4 start by Columbus. He has a NHL-high six shutouts this season and is sporting a stingy 1.88 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.”
"I think the problem for Pascal has been health. We're in one of those situations where we have already learned our lesson, he doesn't come back until he's 100 per cent. He's chomping at the bit right now and feels great, he's had marked improvement, he wants to join the club tomorrow, but we're not doing this until we're 100-per-cent sure."
Ziemer said, “With Leclaire unable to practise and Popperle not yet in Vancouver, it was up to Blue Jackets goalie coach Clint Malarchuk to put on Leclaire's pads and serve as the second goalie in practice.”
"First time in 12 years I've put the gear on," said the 45-year-old Malarchuk, who was looking a little flushed as he walked into the dressing room. "I feel great now, but talk to me tomorrow.
"I've actually played in two alumni games where I went in for a period. But I mean that's just a bunch of old farts getting together. This is work."
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Oh Say, can he ‘C’
Brad Ziemer said Markus Naslund is reemerging reminding him of an old Elton John son from the 1970s called Captain Fantastic.
“Naslund's game-opening goal in Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks was his seventh in the last seven games. He also earned an assist and has 11 points in those seven games,” said Ziemer.
“And it's not just that Naslund is scoring, it's the way he's scoring. We're seeing more Markus Naslund goals, like that quick-release wrister from the left faceoff circle that beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Tuesday night.”
"I just think that last year, with all the changes and stuff, I kind of for some reason felt uncomfortable not knowing what role I would have and how I would play," he said. "I had played on the same line and in the same surroundings for a long time and it was a little bit of a wake-up call. But thinking about it over the summer and coming back here, I just wanted to have a fun year and not worry about the stuff you can't control."
“Having Daniel and Henrik Sedin
as his linemates hasn't hurt,” said Ziemer. “Naslund, who managed just 24 goals last season, is the first to acknowledge that playing with the twins has a lot to do with his offensive renaissance.”
"It's definitely a big part of it, no doubt about it," he said after Wednesday's practice. "They're two guys that whoever you put there plays well and you know that you are going to get chances, you are going to be in an offensive position and you just have to be sharp and be ready when the puck comes."
"He has always worked very hard and always committed with me to work at both ends of the rink. And I think he understands the way we play, which might be a little bit different than in the past, that we can generate as many offensive chances, they just might be different,” said Vigneault.
“Naslund said there have been no talks with the Canucks about a new deal and he really doesn't anticipate any,” Ziemer said.
"It's not really a priority right now," he said. "I'm not overly concerned about it. I know things will take care of themselves, hopefully, and end up working out the best way. Right now, I don't think there is any point in talking."
“But he made it clear Wednesday he would like to remain a Canuck,” said Ziemer.
"I have a difficult time seeing myself play somewhere else. This has been my and my family's home for a long time. I really like the city, I like the organization, I like the team we have, so I would prefer to stay here."
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Father knows best
Grant Kerr said Kesler is improving far greater than expected with only five professional hockey seasons on his belt.
has scored more goals in 24 NHL games this season than he did in twice as many games last season for the Vancouver Canucks,” said Kerr.
“The reason is simple. The emerging 23-year-old centre has matured during his fifth professional season, playing the demanding two-way game his father stressed while coaching his son in youth hockey in Livonia, Mich.”
“Kesler scored twice on power plays on Tuesday in the Canucks' 4-0 blanking of the Anaheim Ducks, raising his total to seven goals. Last season, when Kesler had hip surgery just after midseason, he scored six goals in 48 games,” Kerr said.
“He returned for the first game of the playoffs and was injured again during the five-overtime marathon against the Dallas Stars, breaking a finger while blocking a shot.”
“Staying healthy has helped,” Kesler said after practice yesterday. “I feel comfortable with my game and I'm having fun with it, maybe because of increased confidence.”
“Kesler's on-ice maturation took longer than expected after he played for the United States' under-18 developmental team for two seasons. He experienced one collegiate season at Ohio State before the Canucks selected him 23rd overall in the 2003 NHL entry draft,” said Kerr.
“The Canucks used the rookie for 28 games in the 2003-04 season, and Kesler later spent a full season in the minor leagues with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL during the NHL lockout. He was a 30-goal man with Manitoba, but showed little touch around the net at the NHL level, until this season.”
Kerr said, “He has 15 points, is plus-7 for goals scored at even strength when he's on the ice and has a short-handed goal to go with his two with the man advantage.”
“He's improved his overall understanding of the game,” head coach Alain Vigneault said of Kesler. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's in your face and he'll take you out when he needs to. With his speed and skill level, he's become a very efficient player.”
It’s Spiderman and Superman
Jim Jamieson said the last Canuck goalie to have the longest two consecutive shutouts was Ken (Spider) Lockett, in which Roberto Luongo
can set a new record for the longest shutout in Canuck history if the Bluejackets don’t score tonight.
“It's probably a reflection of the franchise's mediocrity over 36-plus seasons, but Lockett -- the backup goalie to Gary Smith in that rare divisional championship season in '74-'75 -- posted two consecutive shutouts and a string of 184:20 to seemingly cement his spot in the gallery of Canucks heroes,” said Jamieson.
“Luongo, coming off two straight shutouts -- Anaheim 4-0 and Chicago 2-0 -- would erase both Lockett's records by pitching another against Columbus.”
“According to the Canucks, Luongo has played 135:19 without surrendering a goal, going back to Martin Rucinsky's goal at 4:26 of the third period in Vancouver's 3-1 loss at St. Louis on Nov. 23. (The opposition's been scoreless for 135:34, but Luongo wasn't on the ice for 15 seconds in the Chicago game),” Jamieson said.
“Has the Vancouver ace enjoyed back-to-back doughnuts before?”
"Not that I remember," said Luongo. "But that's the least of my worries. It's more a matter of playing well and getting the two points."
“Whether it's Luongo trying not to dwell on the "S" word, last year's Hart Trophy finalist has done it before. Three times, in fact, with Florida,” said Jamieson.
“He blanked Boston and Pittsburgh in January of 2003; Boston and Toronto in February of 2004; Atlanta and Tampa Bay in October 2005. The two from 2004 are Luongo's personal best and still a Panthers team record for longest goal-less stretch (182:37).”
"[Against Anaheim] was a perfect example of what Roberto can do," said Vigneault.