Canucks Host The Caps
The Canucks start against the Capitals in second spot in the Northwest after playing nine of their past 11 games on the road. They're 6-4-1, but only .500 on home ice (1-1).
Everyone - including the numbers - say teams stumble in their first game back from a road trip.
Alain Vigneault says that won't be the case tonight.
"There's a perception there that when you come back from the road, that first game is supposed to be more challenging," says the head coach. "Our guys had an optional [practice] yesterday and they should have taken care of all their personal things to do and this morning was back to focusing on the game."
THE 'O' FACTOR
Against the Caps, focusing means taking dead aim at #8 and not looking away, ever.
Even then the guy can score lying flat on his back while sliding over the red line, as his now famous highlight proves.
So just how do you stop Alexander Ovechkin?
"Good question," said Vigneault. "With those high-class players, you need five guys working on the ice together."
"Obviously when he's on the ice you have to take away space and time as much as you can because he likes to challenge guys one-on-one."
The Canuck charged with handling those one-on-one rushes will be Mattias Ohlund.
Vancouver's blueline stalwart hasn't seen much of Ovechkin, though the two faced off in Turin.
"We lost 5-1," said Ohlund. "I saw him quite a bit, but it wasn't like I was matched-up against him."
"He's one of those guys who just creates a lot of chances. I think we just have to try and limit them as much as we can and not give him the wide-open shots and the breakaways."
Even then, that might not be enough to thwart the Caps. Fellow Russian Alexander Semin leads Washington in scoring with 8 goals and 12 points.
ON THE DEFENCE
If beating the Caps means playing smart without the puck and limiting chances, the Canucks should do well. They've allowed just 23 goals in 11 games - that's an average of just 2.1 per night.
Those numbers are starting to give the Canucks a reputation.
Trevor Linden spent a good ten minutes of his morning in the heart of a media scrum composed almost exclusively of Washington beat reporters trying to explain that the only trap in Vancouver is a bar on Davie Street.
Linden says it's just defensive hockey - and it's not as rare as it seems.
"You can't not play that way in the NHL and expect to win," said Linden. "We're doing a better job in our zone, but when we're forechecking, or we have the puck, it's a green light. He [Vigneault] wants us to push the envelope on that side of things."
"We were a run and gun team last year and it didn't do us any good."
A little run and gun would lift Jan Bulis right now.
He has four points though 11 games while averaging 14:53 of ice, and will get another shot at boosting his totals tonight against Olie Kolzig.
"I think he's highly motivated and I'm convinced he wants to do well," explained Vigneault. "Tonight we're going to put him right back with Mo and Nazzy."
"He's getting an opportunity to play with two of our best players. I expect him to work had and compete. If he does that, he'll do well."
The media made a big stinky fuss over Bulis' reduced ice time Wednesday in Chicago after a colourful exchange with referee Mick McGeough led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
"I think it's been more the inconsistency with his play," explained Vigeneault, who sat Bulis out in the third of Vancouver's 5-0 win over the Blackhawks. "For some reason, when things don't go a player's way, they sometimes try to do too much and get away from the stopping and starting and competing in those tough areas."
"In Jan's case, that's what happened."
Brendan Morrison, who scored his third of the season in Chicago after suffering through a six-game slump earlier, knows a bit about the confidence trick.
"When things don't go well you get frustrated," he said. "Right now he's in that mindset where he is frustrated seeing as every single thing he does out there isn't working. But you just have to keep encouraging him to play his game and stay positive."
"All it takes is one good game or one good play and you get your confidence back and take off."
With Willie Mitchell about to go through an exam with team doctors after suffering a concussion in Nashville, rookie Luc Bourdon gets another shot on the blueline.
After two rocky starts, Bourdon's played two solid games in Dallas and Chicago. "I don't want to look back at the last two games," he said. "I just want to come to the rink and have a good preparation for the game tonight."
"I'm feeling better and better. Everyone knows I didn't have the greatest games, but now it's all behind me and I'm just trying to build off the morning skate and the practice."
Blessed with crazy-fast wheels, Bourdon played a high-risk game in junior confident he could counteract errant pinches with long strides.
"I sometimes made mistakes, but I know with my speed I could recover pretty well," Bourdon said. "But now I have to make sure I don't make those mistakes because even if you're a good skater, the other guy's maybe a good skater as well."
It took 16 stitches to close, but the kids love it.
Josh Green returned home to Vancouver sporting a ready-made Halloween costume after getting dinged in the eye with a puck in Nashville.
"It hurt a little bit," said Green, "but the adrenaline was going at the time. I was more worried about the eye itself, once I realized there wasn't anything wrong with my eye, it was just the cuts around it."
The scary part - aside from the way it looks - was how close Green came to losing vision.
"I'm lucky because I think it hit me flat," said Green. "I have stitches above and below."
If that puck spun half a rotation more...
"Yeah I know, it's going right in the eyeball."
Green attached a windshield in Dallas, and will wear it as long as he can stand it.
"I was a little worried about it [the visor] because I haven't worn one since junior, but it was fine. The only problem I have with it is sometimes the sweat gets all over the window and makes it tough. I'll stick with it a few more games and hopefully I'll get used to it."
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
October 27, 1971: Canucks earn their first ever NHL shutout, skating to a 0-0 tie at Maple Leafs Garden in Toronto. Dunc Wilson stopped 34 Leaf shots while the Canucks fired 20 at Toronto netminder Bernie Parent.