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Rising stock

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
It seems like just yesterday forward Kyle Wellwood was being dragged through the mud.

Everyone was down on Vancouver's off-season acquisition, including himself, and after one appearance with the Canucks the 25-year-old didn't fit into Vancouver's puzzle and was reassigned to the Manitoba Moose.

Oh how the times have changed.

Injuries forced Vancouver to recall Wellwood just three days after he was sent down, he returned to the west coast with a vengeance and never was that more evident than in the Canucks' 4-0 attack on the Nashville Predators Wednesday night at GM Place.

Wellwood, yes the same guy who's conditioning and dedication to hockey were being questioned coming into the season, scored two goals to subdue the Predators, including the game-winner, his second game clincher of the season.

In seven games since trading in his antlers for another shot at the NHL, Wellwood has six goals and one assist, four of those goals coming on the power play.

"Obviously we were hoping to get good performances from him knowing that Pavol [Demitra] was going to be out for at least a month, so he was given another opportunity and he's made the most of it," said coach Alain Vigneault.

Wellwood, the game's first star, was all smiles in the dressing room afterwards and that's without him having heard the "Wellwood, Wellwood" chants that the home fans bathed him in following his second goal of the game.

The run he's on right now is catching Wellwood off guard as much as everyone else.

"My first game back I felt pretty good and when you're feeling good out there, that doesn't last forever, you hope it does, but when you're feeling good out there [goals] seem to come," said Wellwood, who returned to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 21.

"I knew I started to feel good and started to get a little more confident and I was expecting to get a little more stiff and be a little more of a passer, but with Hank and Danny and those guys going to the net it's easier to fire it in that goal."

Wellwood is clearly no longer covered in mud, the squeaky clean centerman is making believers of everyone, including his teammates who can't say enough about his comeback.

"Everybody knows that he's a really talented player," Alex Burrows said. "He's got a tremendous skill set, he's patient with the puck and every game he shows what he's able to do and if he keeps going like that I think he'll be a top end player this year for sure."

"He's putting up points," added Ryan Kesler, "he's playing at both ends of the ice, he's probably one of the hardest working guys on the ice right now and that's good to see. He's not taking anything for granted."

Wellwood's first goal of the game came on the power play midway through the second period when he gobbled up a loose puck in the Nashville crease and slid it over the line.

Mason Raymond doubled Vancouver's lead with his fifth goal and 10th point of the season five minutes into the third, but it was the Wellwood show on this night and he toe tagged the Predators with a goal-scorers' goal a minute after the Raymond tally.

Off a face-off to the right of Nashville netminder Dan Ellis, Wellwood grabbed the puck and walked in all alone before calmly roofing it just under the bar.

The Canucks had the quick hands of Wellwood to thank for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

"That second goal of his tonight was real pretty hands, a goal scorers hands obviously," commented Vigneault on the goal.

Wellwood is no longer a Maple Leafs leftover, he's a coveted Vancouver Canuck and the team couldn't be happier.

"All the NHL teams had a grab at him going down or coming up and nobody did, I don't know if that was a wake up call for him or not, all I know is that he's really grabbed this opportunity and he's helping us win games."

Wellwood earned the first star of the game, as mentioned, right behind him was Roberto Luongo who recorded his third shutout of the season and second in the last four games.

It seems it's been feast of famine for Luongo this year and against the Predators it was the former, 24 saves was all it took for Bobby Lu to snag his 41st career donut.

What a tasty one it was.

Power play goals for Kyle Wellwood this season

4 Combined points for Daniel and Henrik Sedin against the Predators

6 – Wins for the Canucks when they open the scoring

10 – Points in the last 10 games for Mason Raymond

– Shots pelted by Vancouver on Nashville netminder Dan Ellis

This was a 1-0 game going into the third period, with the greatest goaltender in the world in net one might have expected the Canucks to sit back and relax. Instead Vancouver's offence put it into overdrive and scored twice before the final period was seven minutes old. Daniel Sedin's fourth of the season late in the period was the icing on the cake.

Bingo Bango Bongo!

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver's last line of defence, wasn't forced to play at his top level, but he made the big saves when the Canucks needed him.

Vancouver's defence as a whole played well, they limited Nashville's chances and held them to only four shots in the third period.

Two power play goals for and none against, Vancouver stepped up on special teams against Nashville.

The Canucks didn't score the prettiest goals while up a man, but dirty goals count for just as much and they made the difference tonight.

Vancouver still couldn't stay out of the box as four of the team's six penalties were undisciplined and uncalled for, yet they killed off all six Nashville power play opportunities, so no harm done.
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