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Right In The Sen-ter

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks



After a trip to the place where he first broke into the NHL as a head coach, Alain Vigneault returned to his hometown of Gatineau, where he and the Canucks practiced yesterday before crossing to river to play the Ottawa Senators Thursday night.

"It might seem old to a lot of people, might seem corny to a lot of people," he said. "But to me, it's pretty neat. It's just home for me. You can never forget where you come from."

Vigneault started off well with a win over the Canadiens and tonight he has another chance to beat another one of his former teams.

He remembers well his first experience coaching in the NHL, assistant to a familiar face.

"[Rick Bowness and I] started with the Senators when it was a first year expansion team so we went through the original growing pains with that team. It was a great learning experience, I wouldn't change a thing. I really enjoyed working with Rick."

Rick Bowness was the head coach of the Senators in those early years but with 29 wins in three and a half seasons, the two departed with the Senators.

Luckily, their reunion worked out perfectly for the Canucks.

"[I'm] happy that he decided to accept my offer to come to Vancouver because he turned me down when I offered him to come to Montreal so it's worked out alright," said Vigneault.


Even after spending a night upright in the hospital on Monday, Roberto Luongo pulled out his third shutout win of the season.

Luongo was hit in the throat during practice that caused swelling in his throat, which kept him in a noisy hospital room over night in case the swelling would cut off his breathing.

The lack of sleep and lack of food didn't stop him from doing what he does best.

But playing with a throat guard isn't as easy as he makes it look.

"It's different [than a visor]. A visor is really there just to protect the eyes and this is for the throat but at the same time for me, it gets in my way a little bit of moving around and trying to see the puck, especially sometimes when it's at your feet."

Although the throat guard means taking more time to get used to than wearing a visor, with 30 saves against the Habs, he's adjusted pretty quickly.

Luongo is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average in his last five road games, and will be looking for only his third win in nine games at Ottawa if he gets the start.


The Canucks have now won nine of the last ten games. The Sens have lost two in their last ten, with one being in overtime.

Despite the snowy weather in their respective cities, they are two of the hottest teams in the NHL right now.

The Sens are looking to extend their winning streak to six and home winning streak to five, while the Canucks look for their third straight win and sixth road win.

It'll be a challenge for both sides, both fighting for position within their divisions.

"We're on the road so it's going to be a huge task for us so hopefully we can provide some kind of test for them and show up and give them a good game," said Josh Green.

With a win on Tuesday night, the Canucks road record has improved to 11-11-1, while Ottawa improves their home record to 13-10-1.

The Canucks have scored 14 power-play goals in their last 11 games and have only given up two power-play goals in the last eight games.

It'll be a tough task to get past the Sens, who are fifth on the PK at home and eighth overall with the man advantage.

Luongo knows he has to be sharp against a team averaging 3.46 goals per game, good for second best in the league.

"They've been hot lately and they're scoring a bunch of goals," he says.

"They're very productive so I think for us, it's going to be key playing our good road game that we've been playing and eliminate their scoring chances."

In fact, they've scored at least five goals in their last five games.


This will be the only time the teams meet this year in maybe one of the most exciting games of the year. Not only is it another great Canadian matchup but one where the teams are both playing so well, you'd expect something rather entertaining tonight.

"I think these are terrific matchups," said Bryan Murray, head coach of the Senators. "I think it's exciting for everybody who follows hockey. Obviously we don't see them enough. I'd like to see all Canadian teams play each other at least a couple of times a year."

While fans would love to see more Canadian matchups like the ones in the past week, we're just going to have to be happy and excited when we do get to see Canada West meet Canada East.

"The focus on the game with two Canadian teams so it's something that we're getting excited about," said Markus Naslund. "Try to measure up against probably one of the hottest teams in the league."

No matter what, Canada is a hockey country and when the Canadian teams do battle, it's always something to talk about.

"We see the Alberta teams quite a bit and they're some of our more exciting games, but there's a different feeling when you play against a club that you don't see all that often," said Dave Nonis. "It was nice to play in Toronto and a great feeling to play in Montreal [Tuesday] night."

"And I think that'll just carry on in Ottawa, there's just something special about seeing those guys."

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