The 2012-13 season was a struggle at times for Chris Higgins who, despite being just one of six Canucks to finish in double-digit goal-scoring with 10 tallies, managed just 15 points in 41 games played.
If his first scrimmage action of the 2013 Training Camp is any indication, however, Higgins seems primed for a bounce back campaign.
The Smithtown, NY-native tallied three times in the second half of Saturday's scrimmage helping Team Blue bounce back from a 1-0 deficit at the half in a 5-1 win.
"It's the first scrimmages so I wouldn't put too much stock into that," said Higgins of his three-goal effort.
Higgins, playing primarily alongside familiar linemate Jannik Hansen, gave Team Blue their first lead shortly after Brad Richardson knotted the scrimmage at 1-1 by sweeping the rebound from a point shot into the net on his backhand while falling past Team White netminder to put his side up 2-1.
After Darren Archibald scored to make it 3-1 for Team White, Higgins notched his second of the morning pouncing on his own rebound on a 2-on-1 with defenceman Jordan Subban and firing it past Lack stick side.
Higgins would complete the hat trick after being sprung by Hansen on a clear-cut breakaway beating Lack low on the glove side. Even though it was just a scrimmage, he did receive one hat courtesy of a young fan in the crowd for his efforts.
LOOKING FOR A MIDDLE MAN
If the duo of Higgins and Hansen are going to be as dynamic throughout the season as they were in Saturday's scrimmage, then it's easy to see why the centre spot between those two wingers is such a highly coveted position.
On Saturday, the audition process began in earnest for that position.
Brad Richardson, the veteran of 391 career NHL games who spent the past five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings before signing with the Canucks this summer, would appear to have the inside track.
Richardson was penciled in before the scrimmage to start on the line with Hansen and Higgins and certainly made an impression on the fans in attendance scoring a nifty backhand goal that went high on Lack's glove side.
"I've always noticed that he plays with a lot of energy and moves his feet well," said Higgins of Richardson. "Hopefully we keep things going with him."
Jordan Schroeder, who suited up in 31 games for the Canucks last season netting three goals and nine points, also saw routine ice-time throughout the scrimmage alongside Hansen and Higgins while even Cole Cassels and Wes Myron enjoyed a few shifts here and there with that duo.
Richardson knows it's still way too early to tell whether he'll earn that spot between Hansen and Higgins but he's happy to see he seems to be reading his potential new linemates quite well even if it's just after one scrimmage.
"It's really nice because you want to develop chemistry early," said Richardson. "It's better to do it now than to try and figure it out during the season.
"I thought it was a good day today but obviously there's a lot more work that needs to be done."
A MINOR LACK-DOWN
One person who wasn't too thrilled with Chris Higgins' offensive outburst in Saturday morning's scrimmage was man between the pipes for Team White who had to fish out all three of Higgins' goals and along with two other Team Blue tallies – Eddie Lack.
"Chris Higgins kind of picked my number a little bit so maybe he's going to have to buy me lunch or something," said Lack jokingly.
The netminder affectionately known as "Stork" showed off his nerves of steel during Friday's scrimmage staring down the daunting trio of the Sedin twins and Zack Kassian in a 4-1 victory but came unglued in the second half of Saturday's scrimmage after posting a first half shutout.
"There's going to be ups and downs," he added. "I felt a little better, a little bit fresher yesterday."
Lack, who appeared in just 14 games with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) last season before undergoing season-ending hip surgery, is vying for the spot as back-up to Roberto Luongo this season and is chomping at the bit to finally get in some real game action.
"I'm back 100 percent from my injury. I just feel like I want to go out there and play exhibition games."
The Canucks open the pre-season on Monday when the San Jose Sharks visit Rogers Arena. There's no word on which netminder will get the call to start that game.
Another duo to keep an eye on throughout this pre-season comes from the blue-line in the defensive pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev.
Both Edler and Tanev enjoyed their fair share of headlines throughout the summer though probably not for the reasons they wanted to. Edler was linked to trade rumours in the off-season while Tanev had to wait until the end of August before finally inking a deal with the team.
But both are expected to have a significant role with the club this season and there's a good chance they'll be asked to do so while playing alongside one another. They were the top pairing for Team Blue on Saturday.
"We just skated together in a scrimmage today," said Tanev. "I don't know if that's anything to look into or not, but it was good playing with him."
The two aren't unfamiliar with one another having skated as a pairing at times during last season.
"I like playing with him," Tanev added. "I'll give him the puck all the time and let him shoot. He's got an awesome shot and he gets it through all the time."
The pair drew an assist each on Archibald's goal during Saturday's scrimmage.
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