Stalking The Prey
Aside from the scorefest in Chicago, the Canucks still aren't putting as many pucks in the net as they'd like.
A whopping 44 shots Friday against Washington yielded two goals, and almost cost a point in the standings as the Caps rallied with the man advantage to tie in the second, when they had no business being in the same rink as the Canucks.
Taylor Pyatt leads the team in shooting percentage scoring on 30 percent of his shots. Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Daniel Sedin are hovering around the 14 per cent mark, then there's a pretty sharp drop off after that.
In an effort to produce quality pucks, Alain Vigneault's going back to basics. The plan is to instill a little technique around the goal.
"We had stations set up around the ice where guys are working on their touch around the net," he said. "There's been so much focus in the last five to 10 years on goaltenders. They're getting their personal coach spending time on different techniques, and as coaches we've gotten away from [teaching how to] shoot the puck in certain areas, and how you beat a goaltender in this area, so we're going to start to do that."
"We're going to get our players to work on those individual skills."
Brendan Morrison skipped Superskills Sunday. He's still recovering from hip surgery in the spring. He skated Monday and will continue his 442 consecutive game streak tonight against Nashville.
"It was caution more than anything," he said. "If we had to play [Sunday] I could have played."
Morrison says the hip isn't something that really impacts his play so much as seizes up afterwards.
"It's there every day, it's not like there's a day where it's completely gone and then it comes back, I just have to deal with it."
"I think it was just on the road there with four games in six nights it just stiffened up a little bit. There's not a lot of time in there, I think that's the main reason."
Willie Mitchell hasn't resumed workouts since suffering a concussion against the Predators Oct. 21st. He'll miss his fourth straight game tonight.
"I saw him this morning and he's coming along," said Vigneault, who suggested Willie's struggling with the down time.
The coach said Mitchell's new bride has been wearing the defender down because she "talks too much."
That cracked up the press room, though it probably heated up the Mitchell household. Didn't damper Vigneault's sense of humour. He was at it again this morning.
"His wife wants to have a meeting with me here," he joked.
Mitchell will likely begin off ice workouts in the next few days.
PLUGGING THE GAP
With Mitchell out Luc Bourdon will dress for his fourth straight.
After struggling to begin the season Bourdon has steadily improved his play, and roundly celebrated by the hometown fans Friday when he raced back and prevented an Alexander Ovechkin breakaway by diving to poke a puck off his stick in the third.
"I've seen some improvement and I've seen more confidence in his play," said Vigneault. "Obviously his ice time is ranging between six and 10 minutes, and that's not a lot."
"Hopefully he can keep improving and keep making better decisions with and without the puck - that way he can get more ice time. But he still has a ways to go where he can contribute on a regular basis at this level."
Bourdon has played five games in the NHL thus far. Once he plays nine, the Canucks can no longer send him back to his junior club and will spend a year of his eligibility.
When asked if that would impact their decision to keep Bourdon in the pro ranks, Vigneault was clear.
"That decision is going to be based on his play more than Willie's health."
Defensive help from Manitoba won't provide any relief for the Canucks if Mitchell's injury keeps him out and Bourdon does return to Moncton.
"They've had a lot of injuries there and they've had guys in and out," said Vigneault. "They're sort of finding their way in and out also."
The Moose have missed at least five regulars at any one given time since the season began including Brandon Reid, Lee Goren, and defenceman Yannick Tremblay.
"The guy that would have been our first call up automatically would have been Yannick Tremblay, but he's hurt as well right now and won't be available for another two or three weeks."
With Tremblay ailing, Vigneault said Joe Rullier and Prestin Ryan would be the most likely candidates for stints in Vancouver.
Rory Fitzpatrick left the bench in the Canucks 3-2 win over the Caps on Friday after getting dumped hard into the end boards by Alex Semin.
The Canucks promptly had three defenders sent to the box and were short rear guards to run an effective penalty kill, so Fitzpatrick came back.
"The trainer's got this magic dust he puts on it," said Fitzpatrick. "No, I just took my skates off and walked around a bit to get the feeling back in my feet there and felt good enough to play."
"I'm fine now."
Fitzpatrick, who has no points in 11 games, was good enough to unseat Daniel Sedin as the Canucks' sharp-shooter in the annual skill competition Sunday.
"Those hands only come out for the skills competition," he said.
With Roberto Luongo stopping all the but the bad bounces, the opposition's taking to guerilla tactics to nullify Vancouver's advantage in the crease.
Caps twice ran Luongo's crease Friday, and the Blackhawks weren't exactly good hosts Wednesday either.
"It [getting run] happened a lot last year," said Luongo. "It's part of the game and you have to know when to protect yourself in those situations. Once the puck's gone by you want to make sure you're not in a vulnerable spot. It's something the league has to crack down even more to protect the safety of the goalies.