-- The timing of the announcement wasn't lost on 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks
rookie center Bo Horvat
As Horvat prepared to play his ninth NHL game against the goaltender he was traded for, Canucks coach Willie Desjardins told the team Horvat was staying for the season.
Desjardins came into the locker room before the morning skate and showed one bad clip featuring Horvat followed by a good one, and then asked Horvat which player he was going to be.
"I thankfully said the right one and he said, 'Well welcome to the NHL,'" Horvat said. "It was a special moment, something I'll never forget."
It came as Vancouver prepared to welcome back New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who was traded for the ninth pick at the 2013 NHL Draft the Canucks used to select Horvat. At 10 games, this season will count as the first of his three-year, entry-level contract.
"It was pretty good timing; it's kind of all coming together now," Horvat said. "It was definitely nerve-wracking not knowing what was going to happen. I knew this was my ninth game and anything could happen, so for them to tell me before the game just takes that extra pressure off and lets me just go play."
Horvat had three assists in a 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, winning several key faceoffs against Jonathan Toews. Horvat scored his first NHL goal in the game before that and was good going against former Canucks shutdown center Ryan Kesler. Horvat leads the Canucks at 60.4 percent on faceoffs, but Desjardins said it was never guaranteed Horvat would stay this season.
"I probably was a little skeptical he'd be that good that he can play when they talked about it," Desjardins said. "I wasn't thrilled coming in having to say, 'Yeah, you are going to have a 19-year-old in your lineup.' I wasn't thrilled. I never said that but that's what I was thinking."
Horvat was injured in the preseason and started his pro career on a conditioning stint with the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League. Horvat did not have a point in five AHL games before being called up, but Desjardins pointed to that as a turning point.
"It didn't change his confidence," Desjardins said. "When he came back he came back believing he was going to play at this level."
All of which has turned Schneider into something of a forgotten man in his second game back in Vancouver, which is kind of remarkable considering the angst his departure created at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Schneider was the center of attention, even requiring a podium and the press conference room when he returned for the first time early last season. Thirteen months later, Schneider held court for about 10 reporters gathered around his locker in the visitors room.
A lot has changed since Schneider's first visit.
Good friend Roberto Luongo, who endured the daily goaltending soap opera with Schneider for two-plus seasons, was traded to the Florida Panthers, replaced by free agent Ryan Miller. Most of the management who oversaw that controversy was replaced, with a new president, general manager and coach hired.
"Last year was obviously the big one, but I think now that they've kind of turned the page," Schneider said. "New management, new coaches, [Luongo] is gone; it just sort of seems like it's a fresh start and it's not something that many people talk about anymore."
The Canucks plan to celebrate the life and legacy of former coach, general manager and president Pat Quinn, who died at age 71 Sunday after a lengthy illness.
There will be a video tribute and moment of silence before the game. The Canucks will wear decals with the initials "PQ" on their helmets for the rest of the season, but Desjardins said how they play would be the biggest tribute.
"For us and for me, I think our tribute for him would be to play hockey that Pat Quinn would say at the end of the day, 'I like how that team plays,' and that's kind of how I am approaching the year," Desjardins said. "I'd like if at the end of the year Patty would say, 'You guys played hard.'"
Here are the projected lineups:
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Martin Havlat - Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique
Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Michael Ryder
Dainius Zubrus - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Peter Harrold - Marek Zidlicky
Adam Larsson - Seth Helgeson
Scratched: Eric Gelinas, Damien Brunner, Jordin Tootoo
Injured: Ryane Clowe (concussion), Jon Merrill (arm), Bryce Salvador (lower body)
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins – Nick Bonino – Alexandre Burrows
Shawn Matthias – Brad Richardson – Zack Kassian
Derek Dorsett – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen
Alexander Edler – Christopher Tanev
Ryan Stanton – Kevin Bieksa
Luca Sbisa – Yannick Weber
Scratched: Frank Corrado, Linden Vey
Injured: Dan Hamhuis (lower body), Tom Sestito (groin)
Status report: New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer will make two lineup changes after the Devils blew a late two-goal lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. The first is obvious: Schneider, who got his first night off after breaking Martin Brodeur's Devils record by starting 20 straight games to open a season, is back in goal. Gelinas will be a healthy scratch in favor of Harrold. "[Gelinas] knows," DeBoer said when asked for a reason. "Had a little bit of an off night and we're at the end of a road trip here, we've got some fresh bodies, and sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward." … Desjardins said he doesn't have a final report on Hamhuis, who had to be helped off the ice against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday with a lower-body injury. But general manager Jim Benning told radio station Team 1040 that Hamhuis' absence would be measured in months, not weeks. "As a coach you are always hopeful; you always want it to be quicker," Desjardins said. "But we knew he wasn't going to be back in two weeks. We knew it was going to be a little while."
Who's hot: Hansen is coming off his first hat trick Sunday and has scored five of his eight goals this season in the past three games while playing on the fourth line. … Henrique has two goals and an assist in his past two games and is finding his form three games after returning from a lower-body injury.