TOUGH IT OUT
When Corey Perry ran Kevin Bieksa
into the end boards early in the second period of last night's game, all of B.C. gasped in horror.
"At first, he kind of just side stepped me and hit my whole leg on the boards," said Bieksa, who crumpled to the ice immediately after the hit. "At first my whole leg was numb so I didn't really know what was wrong with it but after a while, it kind of settled down - just a little bit in the knee there - but it should be fine."
Bieksa struggled to find his feet and medical trainer Mike Burnstein eventually ushered him to the bench once the play was blown dead. Bernie had a quick look at Bieksa's left knee in the dressing room. It checked out.
Bieksa missed one shift and returned just in time to tie the game 1-1 on a Canucks 5-on-3 power-play.
"I think it was a good play by the Twins to get the puck in there because on a 5 on 3, you always want to get shots on goal early," said Bieksa. "I had the puck in the slot and it's always a good place to shoot from. Trevor had a good screen there so I just tried to get it by."
The goal was Bieksa's first in 24 games and ended a nine-game point drought.
With a game Thursday night in L.A., the team was back at it and Bieksa was on the ice for morning practice.
"It was a little stiff when I first woke up but it should be okay," he said. "We'll see how it goes today in practice. It's one of those things where initially you're thinking the worst right away so I'm glad it's not too serious."
Bieksa leads all Canuck defencemen with 31 points and is fifth overall in team scoring. SABOU-WIN
It's a testament to Dany Sabourin's popularity when an OT victory over Brian Burke's powerhouse Ducks is overshadowed by a personal stat, but it was hard to ignore the buzz in the room on Wednesday morning. Sabourin's finally earned his first NHL victory in his sixth start of the year, and ninth in four years.
"Any time I don't decide to go with Louie, there's going to be a debate on if it's the right call or the right time," said head coach Alain Vigneault.
The doubters were silenced after last night with a 3-2 overtime win in Anaheim.
Sabourin hasn't seen action since January 19 when he earned one point for the Canucks in a shootout loss to Buffalo.
"When you play a top team in the league and you almost win, it can give you confidence," said Sabourin. "It can make a difference."
Sabby made 33 saves in Buffalo and stopped two-of-four skaters in the shootout, but lost after Chris Drury tied it with a fluke defelction in the final minute and Ales Kotalik beat him with a backhand deke.
"When you don't play it can be very hard but when you get in there, it's like a boost of energy."
His energy showed in Anaheim. Sabourin made 38 saves and held the Ducks at bay in a lopsided first that, at one point, saw the Ducks leading 11-1 on the shot clock.
"It was great for him, but also for us," said captain Markus Naslund. " We're all really happy for him because he's a great teammate.
"It feels good in the room for him right now," said Bieksa. "He battled hard tonight and that was the first priority for everybody in this room tonight was to get him a win."
Coaches, like proud parents, were happy to see the team coming together for Sabourin.
"That doesn't happen unless the guy in goal is a good guy who's worked hard and our guys recognize that," said assistant coach Mike Kelly. "I thought it was real neat, we purposely stayed on the bench to enjoy it as well."
Now, Sabourin can relax a little and enjoy the ride from here on in.
"It's huge," he says. "I know everyone was talking about it. It's something I'm very happy that I got it and now I can move on from that." WHAT'S LEFT?
After beating the Ducks 3-2 in Anaheim on Tuesday, the Canucks are enjoying a 12-point lead over the Oilers and Avalanche; both teams are lurking just outside the playoff bubble.
The Wild and Flames are three and four points back respectively.
It looks like the three will battle it out for the third seed in the West with the two losers earning unsavoury first-round match-ups.
If the playoffs started today, the two teams who end up second and third in the Northwest would face division-leaders Nashville and Anaheim in the first round.
Still think the big blue Northwest ribbon is just rafter dressing?
As it sits, Vancouver and Calgary have 22 games remaining while Minnesota has 21.
The Canucks have seven divisional games remaining with five at home. The remaining two on the road are in Edmonton and Colorado, where they've had moderate success this season.
The Wild still have 14 divisional matchups with five against the Oilers and four with the Flames. Calgary is has 10 Northwest battles on the radar.
Minnesota has two Eastern games left, while the Canucks and Flames both face only Tampa Bay.
The Canucks have a combined eight games remaining against upstarts LA, St. Louis, and Phoenix. They have one more meeting in Anaheim, and will make their first visit to San Jose in March and one more in April.
The Wild have just four more games with those three teams but with a slight advantage, they will all be played in Minnesota.
Calgary's seen the last of LA but still have four remaining with Phoenix, St. Louis, and Chicago.
So how will this play out? And how much will the divisional games affect the Canucks drive for Northwest glory? Good question.