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  1. The biggest news out of Vancouver tonight isn't the Canucks' suffering just their fourth regulation loss on home ice. It's potentially the loss of Dan Hamhuis to a concussion on a team that's looking to finish strong down the stretch with an already battered blueline. This rash of injuries to the Canucks' defensemen is something I've never, ever seen before. It seems as though once one defenseman comes back, another gets hurt. They're just dropping like flies. It's not like the Islanders losing Rick DiPietro, Nathan Lawson, and Kevin Poulin in succession. It's happening to a team that already had tons of depth on the blueline and needs a strong six-man defensive group to win games. Let's digest what's happened the past week or so. First, the injury to Keith Ballard. It was a slewfoot. Was it intentional? It's hard to tell, but given the outcry by the Vancouver media on that play you'd think Milan Michalek was the next coming of Bryan Marchment or Darius Kasparaitis. It's pretty one-sided journalism in a hockey-mad city, but here's what Michalek said according to the Toronto Sun: "He went to hit me and we kind of collided together... I was falling down and I grabbed him... I didn't want to hurt him, I didn't want to do anything." This is something a Jordin Tootoo, Matt Cooke, or Steve Ott would never say, and it's not like Michalek's a dirty player either. Keep in mind Ballard gives up about 3 inches and 20 pounds in that match-up. It wasn't an obvious slewfoot. Compared to or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN99_E0tLhg, Michalek's looks tame. I think Michalek was trying to get free from Ballard and when both players pulled their feet just gave out and gravity did the rest. Was it suspension worthy? No, because I think there was any clear intent to injure, and in reality a lot of slewfoots happen when two players get tangled and try to jostle for position, but a holding penalty could've been called. <img src="http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h164/jchockey/getzhammer.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">And then tonight the Canucks lost another key piece in Hamhuis on a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9DhHejqQcg. To all those who think Getzlaf should be suspended, don't be silly. For those thinking it was a head shot, it clearly wasn't. I've watched the clip numerous times and Getzlaf didn't leave his feet or stick out an elbow to hit Hamhuis. John Garrett (let's face it, he's a Canucks homer) is clearly wrong because Getzlaf left his feet after contact. This isn't http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=322zqTkL0-c. However, it was a bad hit and it should've been a boarding call at the very least. But Hamhuis did see Getzlaf coming around the net, which is why he played the puck up the boards and not around the net, and turned his back to a 6'4", 220 lbs. player who isn't afraid to shy away from the hitting aspect of the game. What really did the damage was Hamhuis' head hitting the boards. Seeing how Hamhuis reacted, I'm pretty sure he has a concussion, even if Alain Vigneault says he "seems fine." Concussions are tricky and as I've said in previous posts, the big picture is the playoffs, which means that even if Hamhuis feels the slightest discomfort he should be held out of Saturday night's tilt against Calgary. That's two veteran defensemen down for a month while Alex Edler is recovering from back surgery. That leaves Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff as our top two, who will most likely be separated to even out the pairings, and Alberts and Rome rounding out the top four. Sami Salo is set to come back on Saturday, but I can't imagine him logging 20+ minutes in his first game back, despite lighting it up in the AHL on his conditioning stint. But Calgary may force Vigneault's hand if Chris Tanev, expected to be the sixth defenseman, isn't having a strong game (even though he's been good) or the Canucks are down and a powerplay opportunity presents itself. Ehrhoff and Samuelsson are expected to remain on the top powerplay unit while the second unit may feature two righties with Bieksa and Salo, perhaps with Tanev taking a shift or two. What appeared to be the Canucks' biggest strength heading into the season, strong defensive depth, has quickly become depleted, even if the farmhands have been performing admirably. With Lee Sweatt out with a broken foot, the Canucks can't afford another injury to their blueline. Ryan Parent, acquired from Nashville for Shane O'Brien, has struggled all season and in my opinion has completely lost his confidence, having just one point in 24 games with the Moose. Evan Oberg has eight goals in the AHL and appeared in two NHL games last year, both of them decidedly average, but may have been leapfrogged by Kevin Connauton, who excelled with the Vancouver Giants with 73 points in 69 games after transferring from Western Michigan and has 10 goals with the Moose. Are the Canucks at their breaking point? The Canucks have got some really nice bounces this year, but that's not taking anything away from the Sedins, Edler, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo, all of whom have been spectacular. But sitting 9 points ahead of second place Detroit in the West and first in the league puts the Canucks in an interesting position. In years past, the Red Wings have often been the measuring stick for teams seeking playoff spots, and in those games the opposition very often ratchets up the intensity. The Canucks are clearly the team to beat this year and the ultimate litmus test. With 27 games to go this final stretch will be very interesting to watch and we may find out what this team is really made of. This will be the Canucks' toughest test.
  2. After lighting the mood in the city in a 7-1 drubbing over Dallas and then having 5'9" Lee Sweatt, affectionately nicknamed "Rudy," score the winner on his first shot in his first game in a 2-1 win over Nashville to tie Philadelphia for first in the league, the big news out of Vancouver today is the unfortunate loss of defenseman Alex Edler to back surgery. Edler has been, in my opinion, the best and most consistent Canuck blueliner this year. I thought he's been so good this year that he was my second choice for the Norris, ahead of All-Star Kris Letang. He's a very quiet player who plays a quiet yet steady game, no doubt a reason for the lack of media attention. Playing on the west coast doesn't help matters either, but he leads the west's top-ranked team in points, ice-time, and blocked shots among defensemen. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/12/120908_edler_b.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Edler was held out of last night's game vs. Nashville because of back spasms, thought to have suffered on his open-ice hit on Jamie Benn vs. Dallas. However, Edler is now going under the knife for microdiscectomy surgery, which is a type of microdecrompression spinal surgery usually performed on herniated discs. While the general post-surgery recovery time may vary, it is usually between 2-4 weeks before regular, normal activity can be resumed. Since Edler is a hockey player, that recovery time may be longer, perhaps up to 2 months, although the exact time frame will not be known until the surgery is performed. Edler has never played a full 82-game season. With Edler held out of last night's game, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Kevin Bieksa all logged more than 23 minutes of ice-time, with Chris Tanev logging 11 and Lee Sweatt with a shade under 9. Expect that trend to continue, as Alain Vigneault will surely rely heavily on his four veterans post-All-Star break. With one of Vancouver's trigger men on the point gone, the onus will fall on Samuelsson, who may be moved up to the first powerplay unit on the point opposite Ehrhoff. Hamhuis and Bieksa will be on the second, giving the Canucks another left-right shooting blueline combo. Ballard led all defensemen in total ice-time last night but logged just four seconds on the powerplay and was the only blueliner to record a minus, but he has a real opportunity here to show Vigneault what he can do. If not, Tanev and Sweatt, both good skaters and have shown adept at moving the puck, may get looks over him. With Edler gone, it doesn't necessarily mean Sami Salo will be back soon. The pressure for him to return has increased, but it would be unwise to rush him back before he's ready. The Canucks enter the All-Star break in good position, with a 5 point lead over second-place Detroit and a 15-point cushion on Colorado. The worst thing the Canucks can do is rush Salo back and risk losing him to re-aggravation or another injury before the playoffs. The long-term picture here is the postseason, and if that means losing the Presidents' Trophy (very possible) or the third-consecutive division title (very unlikely), then so be it. For now, we'll just have to see what Chris Tanev and Lee Sweatt can really do. EDIT: Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun believes the injury may cost Edler up to 3 months. It's possible, but that could be the safe prediction. It is my personal opinion that Edler will be ready for the first round of the playoffs, and maybe even before that. EDIT #2: The hit itself was awkward, with both Edler and Benn colliding and falling over in awkward angles. The Stars have now announced that Benn is out indefinitely as well because of the hit.
  3. Growing up in a hockey-mad city, I idolized the Canucks. As a kid, you don't pay as much attention to wins or standings or special teams efficiency, and although the adrenaline rush of watching your team win is unmatched, you're always rooting for a single player. But given the economics of the league, players are drafted, signed, traded, waived, or bought out, coaches and GMs are hired, fired, and re-hired. For me, the appreciation of a single player was enough to keep me interested. When I attended Canucks games, which weren't many, considering I'm not a season-ticket holder and single game tickets can be pricey, I was watching one player and one player only: Trevor Linden. I can honestly say that I've never, ever left a game early, and I always made my dad stay until the three-star selections. It was a huge delight for me to see Linden skate in a mini-circle and give a wave to the fans, if only it lasted less than five seconds. You cheered for your favourite player, even in tough losses. So it is particularly disappointing for me to hear that the Canucks have now grown a tendency to not come out during the three-start selections. Back in May, I ripped the Canucks for not saluting their fans after the Blackhawks ended the Canucks' playoff run on home ice. This is what I wrote: "Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year." (May 12, 2010) <img src="http://mattgunn.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/game4lost_ducks.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">I understand the bitterness after a loss. Everyone's experienced it before. Words are harder to put together. Movements are slower. You're in disbelief, then your shoulders drop and you wonder what you could've done better, then you start getting angry, wondering why you weren't good enough, having been eliminated in a similar fashion the year before. I get it. But what I don't get, is why these professionals can't suck it up and give their fans a little wave of thanks. There are many fans who don't care - a win is a win, and after all, it is a team game. But there are also many who do care. There are a lot of kids today who wait to get an extra glimpse of Henrik, Dan, Kesler, Luongo, or whoever. If 18,859 people walk out of Rogers Arena not caring about the three stars, the players should still come out and give that one person remaining in the stands a salute. It doesn't mean a lot to us because we don't care, but there are still those who do, and given the prices these fans pay to come to games, it's not too much to ask. On January 5, I ripped Luongo on Twitter for not coming out after being named the game's first star in a 3-1 win. It was quite obvious to me that he was upset at losing his shutout with only 10.3 seconds to go in the game. "I'm a competitor and I want to stop them all and I was a little disappointed that one went in at the end," Luongo had said after the game, after declining an on-ice interview when he was named the game's first star after stopping 43 shots. Wait. Was Luongo actually so bitter that he lost a statistic that he refused to come out and acknowledge the fans? Could he be that selfish and petty? I sure hope not. But sure enough, after losing to Detroit in a 2-1 shootout loss, the Canucks once again failed to come out. Luongo and Ballard were named two of the three stars but neither came out. I can understand why players don't come out during road games, like Jimmy Howard, because this isn't their hometown crowd, even if there are plenty of Red Wings fans in the stands. So in both wins and losses, the Canucks just don't come out. It's not like being named a star isn't worth anything - the Canucks' Molson Cup award is annually given to the player who is named one of the three stars most over the course of the season. Luongo won the award three consecutive times, from 2006-2009. I don't get it. Then, Iain MacIntyre reveals to us that the Canucks have "... a loose, long-standing policy against asking their players to return to the ice after losses. Ballard, in fact, didn't even know until [MacIntyre] told him that he'd been named a star and was horrified at the possibility fans might think he had disrespected them." Kudos to Ballard for actually feeling guilty about the whole thing, but what kind of organization does this to their fans? When did the Canucks become such prima donnas? We understand that the Canucks' first goal is to win and quite (unfairly) both the organization and fans think that a Cup title will all of a sudden exonerate all of the past miscues. Not really.
  4. After a 6-2 trouncing of Ottawa, the Canucks continue their eastern swing and face the struggling Leafs in a prime-time match-up Saturday nigth. A convincing win over Pascal Leclaire and the Sens improved the Canucks' road record to 3-4-1, just one game below .500 but compared to the Canucks' home record of 6-0-1, it's like Jekyll and Hyde all over again. Last year, the Canucks had the league's best home record (30 wins, tied first with Washington) but was among the worst on the road among playoff teams (19 wins, third worst among the 16 playoff-bound teams). The Leafs are struggling offensively, with just 32 goals scored, second worst in the league and only ahead of New Jersey. In an effort to jumpstart the offense the Leafs have called up top prospect Nazem Kadri but a saviour he is not (yet) and it is very, very likely that the Canucks will earn their fourth road victory. Here are some things to keep in mind: <img src="http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Nazem+Kadri+NHL+Rookie+Tournament+Toronto+pnZkhYfgvVml.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I'm not as optimistic as others when they say that the Leafs are one centre away from being offensively competent. While "Magic Hands" Kadri is indeed a top prospect, the Leafs don't have anyone in their system at any level that will develop into an elite NHL forward. Phil Kessel is a spectacular goalscorer, but he is not a player you build your team around. Kris Versteeg seems to lack the jump he had in Chicago, and I reckon it's because he's not used to being the focus of opposition defenses, given that in Chicago the top pair was always assigned to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but also to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. It doesn't help either when Versteeg is such a perimeter player. The lack of offensive presence led to Brian Burke calling up Christian Hanson over Kadri in late October and it's hard to fault his logic. The Leafs were getting shots on net but lacked the physical presence up the middle to create space and time for their wingers and Hanson, at 6'4" and 228 lbs., is much bigger than the 6'0", 188 lbs. Kadri. The reason why the Leafs' fourth line of Mike Brown, Colton Orr, and Mike Zigomanis/Hanson is so successful is because they put so much pressure on the opposition defense with their physical forecheck and aren't afraid to go into the dirty areas. Offense will probably be the most discussed topic for Toronto but lost in the shuffle is Keith Aulie, a prospect received from Calgary (the piece that really tilted the deal in favour of Toronto) in the Dion Phaneuf trade who was called up along with Kadri. If you don't know who Aulie is yet, you should. The WHL is known for producing great defensemen and Aulie spent his entire major junior career with Brandon. Drafted 116th overall in 2007, Aulie didn't turn many heads... that was until he was paired with Tyler Myers for the 2009 World Junior Championships (the year Canada won its fifth straight gold and Cody Hodgson led the tournament in scoring, only to lose the MVP award to John Tavares) and became the tournament's best shut-down pair. At 6'6", the lanky blueliner has a pterodactyl-like wingspan but once he's filled out his frame, along with Luke Schenn they could form the league's best shut-down 1-2 punch. Even if you include Ryan Kesler's two-goal effort in Ottawa, the Canucks' secondary scoring has been absolutely atrocious on the road. Granted, Kesler's outburst may have finally opened the floodgates but both Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond have yet to score on the road and have only combined for 4 assists and -9, atrocious stats that you won't find unless you look on the last page of the road +/- category. With no Dion Phaneuf, who remains sidelined with a leg injury, look for Alain Vigneault to try and get his second line going. The Sedins, as always, have been consistent both at home and on the road, and with Alex Burrows finally 100% that line will once again rank in the league's top 5. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/3797222.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Vigneault elected to not make any lineup changes following a shutout loss to Montreal in which the entire team played poorly, thereby declaring that it wasn't just one player's fault for their performance. Coming off a convincing win makes lineup changes even harder to justify but since Keith Ballard's exile to the pressbox, giving the Canucks their first $4 million healthy scratch and the first of Ballard's career, Andrew Alberts' play has regressed. He's taken bad penalties at bad times and failed to clear the puck in key situations. Aaron Rome has been unspectacular but much more steady, giving Vigneault at least a dependable third pairing player. But as hard as it is to justify lineup changes after a win, like Sidney Crosby I prefer to give my struggling players the opportunity to play rather than stapling them to the bench or exiling them to the press box. Let's not forget that Ballard has led the Panthers in hits in five consecutive seasons and along with Zbynek Michalek and Mike Weaver, one of the most underrated shot blockers in the game. He's had a rough start to the season but he is still top four material. Despite Alberts' struggles he is, by far, the most improved Canuck this year (thanks to plyometrics) and he has proven that he can be change the momentum of the game, like in the 6-4 win over Detroit when he absolutely wallpapered Pavel Datsyuk. Aaron Rome doesn't have that game-changing ability. For that reason, Rome would be my odd man out. On a team that is as talented and skilled as this I can afford to make the risky play knowing that Roberto Luongo and rest of the team can bail Alberts out if he makes a mistake. I'm not saying Alberts' upside is like Ed Jovanovski's, who similarly made a name for himself by taking risks, but like Mario Bliznak last night it's particularly uplifting for a team when a depth player can make such a significant impact in the game. Speaking of Bliznak, another former WHL product like Aulie who played with the Giants, if he continues his strong play forget about the search for a fourth line centre (move aside, Peter Schaefer. Thank goodness that ill-conceived experiment has ended). Drafted 205th overall in 2005 by Dave Nonis, Bliznak was virtually unknown, save for the fact that he was playing in the Slovak men's league as a 17-year old and appeared in 19 games but registered zero points. Bliznak moved to the WHL to further develop as a hockey player but was never known to be a prolific goal scorer. However, his work ethic has always been his selling point and even when he graduated from the WHL, Moose GM Craig Heisinger was taken back at how ready this kid was for professional hockey. There's no lack of confidence in the kid by Vigneault either, with Bliznak taking 10 face-offs last night and winning half of them. Since centre ice is arguably the most valuable property on the ice, if Bliznak can develop into a serviceable fourth line centre, the Canucks will be locked in at that position for years to come. Just like how the Leafs hesitated to call up Kadri, Mike Gillis has elected to keep Jordan Schroeder and Cody Hodgson, who leads the Moose in scoring, in the AHL for further development. There's no hurry - both players are entering their first full professional season. For those wondering when wunderkind Cory Schneider will get his next start, it is most likely in Buffalo against the struggling Sabres, but if Luongo plays well he will start all of the games on the trip. With four teams struggling, especially the Penguins suffering from new-home-rink-itis, the Canucks may go 4-1 on this trip. Prediction: The Canucks absolutely blister the Leafs on special teams. The Canucks are clicking at 26% on the powerplay and the Leafs can barely kill of 3/4 of their penalties. Kadri makes one nice play but disappears for the rest of the game. Mike Komisarek takes at least one dumb penalty and Tanner Glass scraps with former Canuck Mike Brown. Canucks win, 5-1.
  5. In a game that featured two teams struggling to score, it was Anaheim's trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry that emerged victorious with a combined 7 points in a 4-3 win over Vancouver. The Ducks entered their home opener 0-3, heavily outshot and outscored. After a lambasting by coach Randy Carlyle in this morning's practise, the Ducks responded appropriately, taking advantage of odd-man rushes and scoring chances while the Canucks failed to capitalize on theirs. While the highlight reel goals may suggest otherwise, this was actually a game in which both teams went through stretches of poor play and silly mistakes. Just 36 seconds into the first period Peter Schaefer put the Canucks on their heels with a hooking call despite a flurry of shots by the Canucks to start the game. Alain Vigneault clearly wanted the Canucks to keep firing at the net but Schaefer's penalty gave the Ducks a good opportunity to get their offense going. Another bad penalty, this time by Ryan Kesler, put the Ducks on a 5-on-3 advantage and while the Canucks managed to kill off Schaefer's penalty they couldn't complete the job and the Ducks capitalized first with a powerplay goal by Getzlaf assisted by Ryan and rookie Cam Fowler, who looks like he'll be staying the entire season. The Ducks are talented but struggling and if you give them opportunities they will capitalize. Getzlaf and Ryan needed to get on the scoresheet and Randy Carlyle needed a good start. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5c/fullj.d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63/d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63-getty-102832475rr028_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Daniel Sedin tied it moments later on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Henrik and just 17 seconds later Raffi Torres netted his first as a Canuck on a deflection. With 16 shots in the first period it seemed like the Ducks were well on their way to another shellacking and the Canucks' secondary scoring finally putting it together but it was just a tease. While many were commending Torres on his goal and his fight against Sheldon Brookbank in response to a open-ice hit from behind on Schaefer, I thought it was an absolutely terrible time to pick a fight. I appreciate the fact that Torres was protecting his teammate but it was a relatively harmless hit and it certainly didn't warrant an instigator that put the Canucks on the penalty kill again. Putting your team on the PK when you've just gotten the lead is a sure-fire way to kill any sort of momentum you've just built. Torres was barely visible for the rest of the game. The Ducks pulled even on a Teemu Selanne powerplay snipe after Kevin Bieksa was called for slashing when he broke Perry's stick in half. Bieksa's decision-making has drawn the ire of many but I don't think he's really at fault for this one. He didn't touch a single hair on Perry's body and today's sticks snap like twigs anyway. I think it was a unlucky call and to pin this mistake on Bieksa is unfair. But it is what it is and Bieksa allowed the Ducks to tie it up at 2. That's fine because there's still plenty of hockey left to play but I imagine what irks people more is that Bieksa didn't do anything to redeem himself. I thought it was interesting that he was the assistant captain on the road and not at home where I imagine Vancouver's critical fans wouldn't hesitate to lambaste him. Christian Ehrhoff's powerplay marker on a phantom hooking call on Ryan early in the third seemed to have iced the game but then the Canucks started to sit back a little. There was little urgency in their play and the second line duo of Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond has yet to generate any significant offensive opportunities. Each player finished with 3 shots but none of them were particularly dangerous. A strange ricochet off the glass and the top of Jonas Hiller's net left the Canucks stunned for a moment which led to an odd-man rush in which Perry scored his first of the season. Bieksa was left to defend three Ducks players but instead of remaining in position he decided to chase the puck instead which left Perry wide-open on the right side of the net for an easy tap-in. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5b/fullj.9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5/9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5-getty-102832475rr030_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The most controversial call, or non-call, in this case, came from Ryan's game-winner. Leading the breakout and carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Ryan poked the puck away from Henrik towards Getzlaf who skated down towards the net on a 3-on-1 and passed it back to Ryan for an easy goal. The problem with that play was that there was supposed to be a penalty on the Ducks. When Ryan jumped over the boards and touched the puck, Matt Beleskey, the player coming off for Ryan, still had his two skates on the ice. It was a too many men call that was completely missed by veteran referee Stephen Walkom and Justin St. Pierre. Still, the truth is the Canucks' offense just didn't look very dangerous and failed to capitalize on a few key chances. The offense the Canucks boasted last year still hasn't shown up. This is the first game that I've kept a close eye on Keith Ballard (playing his 400th NHL game) and I really like what I saw. I have always been a fan since his Florida Panther days but I got a good look at him tonight and the guy plays with an edge. He's not afraid to hit and not afraid to jump up on the play which is why some people have prompted comparisons to Ed Jovanovski. Ballard doesn't quite have the same offensive talents but when and if Bieksa gets traded he may be the only defenseman on our roster that has a mean streak. Early on in the game Roberto Luongo was run over by Perry and then given a snow shower by Dan Sexton but nobody responded. It's the same story as last year. Opposing teams take liberties and take runs at Luongo while the Canucks' defensemen just sort of stand around and look at Walkom for a call. It can't work that way. The Canucks need to play with an edge and protect the goalie when necessary. Ballard certainly does that. Each year, Mike Gillis brings in a new crop of bottom six forwards and every time the Canucks fail to go deep into the playoffs a new bottom six is brought in. This year's group includes free agent veterans Manny Malhotra and Schaefer and rookie Guillaume Desbiens. Given the performance of the bottom six tonight (and the team in general) the Canucks have no shot at going deep. Torres started off great but did his disappearing act. The usually physical Tanner Glass was invisible. Rick Rypien is not a NHL-level face-off guy. Schaefer can be easily replaced with a faster, grittier option. Desbiens, try as he might, and God knows he's worked hard to get here, unfortunately just doesn't bring enough to the table to last in this league. While it is still early in the season, Kesler and Raymond have yet to register a single point. They had a good outing against Florida but were stymied by Tomas Vokoun. Kesler has a team-high 8 missed shots. I have a feeling he's trying to do too much on offense. I have yet to see him create turnovers with his speed and puck pursuit like he did so many times last year in his Selke-nominated season. He needs to do what he does best. Kesler has just two takeaways thus far this season while his biggest Selke rival, Pavel Datsyuk, already has six. The Canucks face the Kings next in LA Friday night. Luongo wasn't particularly sharp tonight but he wasn't bad either and he will obviously start against the Kings in a key match-up. Alain Vigneault has said that he will go to Luongo as long as he has the hot hand, but with a quick one-game homestand (Carolina, 17th) and then two big back-to-back games on the 19th (Minnesota) and 20th (Chicago) on the road, I am curious as to what Vigneault will do. Of the next four games the Carolina game may be the easiest and more insignificant than the rest since the other three are against conference rivals so I imagine that's the game we will be seeing Cory Schneider for the first time this season.
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