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Canucks hope any mistakes are "over-aggressive"

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- The Vancouver Canucks have had less than a month to learn new coach John Tortorella's systems and adjust to his demands for a faster, more aggressive style of play.

Ready or not, the new-look Canucks will face their first real test Thursday against the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET, TSN), the team that swept them out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round last season.

"I just want to play," Tortorella said before his team's morning skate at SAP Center. "The [preseason] games are just what they are, [preseason] games. I'm anxious to see how we play in a real sense situation."

So are Tortorella's players.

"He demands a lot, he expects a lot," said Canucks center Ryan Kesler. "It's our job to go out and execute. Do we understand his systems? Yes, absolutely. We understand the philosophy he wants to bring to this team and we're all excited about it.

"We changed a lot of our systems. New coach, new style. We're going to play faster, we're going to play hungrier, we're going to play like a team that has nothing to lose."

Yet as Kesler acknowledged, "there's going to be a learning curve," especially early in the season.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said three weeks isn't nearly long enough for a new coach to fully implement his system.

"I think it takes time," McLellan said. "Coaches bring with them their own identity, their own personality. Teams often take that personality on. It does take time. I think as the year goes on players understand coaches a little bit better, the relationships grow stronger, the trust factor grows, but it's really hard to establish that in three weeks."

Tortorella said he realizes that the Canucks will make some mistakes against the Sharks.

"I just hope we're aggressive, we have a mindset that if we're going to make mistakes it's going to be through the aggressive side, not testing the waters, not being in-between," he said. "We'll chip out the mistakes as we go through, but I want those mistakes to be made by being over-aggressive."

Tortorella couldn't have drawn a much tougher team or venue for his debut with Vancouver. The Canucks have lost nine straight against the Sharks -- three regular-season games, four postseason games and two preseason games. Now they'll play the Sharks for the first time as fellow members of the Pacific Division, adding more spice to a heated rivalry.

Although Tortorella said none of his players has talked to him about being swept by San Jose last season, they haven't forgotten.

"I think there's always motivation when you lose to a team in playoffs the way we did, especially," Kessler said. "So there is going to be some extra motivation tonight."

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