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Quick Thinking

Thursday, 16.11.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Quick Thinking

NOV.16.06

CHANGE UP

Alain Vigneault is trying more line combinations. He had Brendan Morrison skating with Matt Cooke and Jan Bulis this morning. Taylor Pyatt skated with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The Twins teamed up with Markus Naslund.

Some say the continual changes are hampering chemistry more than helping it, but the players aren't buying it.

"I'm not trying to concentrate on who I'm playing with, but how I play," said Matt Cooke.


SHAKING THE BLUES

The St. Louis Blues face the Edmonton Oilers tonight before flying to Vancouver.

The Canucks have just one win after four straight home games and know it is critical to take two points off a tired Blues team.

"Last year they beat us all four times, and we had to squeeze one out in OT in St. Louis," said Markus Naslund. "We know it's going to be a tough game. We can't underestimate them, we have to play them hard."

"It's going to be a tough game like all our other games that we've had this year."

St. Louis has lost four of their last five and are 5-9-3, but boast a stiff group of veteran forwards that includes Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin - and of course goalie Curtis Sanford who nearly stole two points with a 36-save effort the last time the teams met.

"St. Louis, I think they've got good players," said Alex Burrows. "They've got a really good goalie that last year played really good against us so we can't take them for granted even if they're record's not as good as they probably want it to be."


GREASY ELBOWS

The last two losses have been extra tough for the Canucks, dropping identical 3-2 decisions to Detroit and Calgary.

The work ethic's been there and the scoring chances have followed. What hasn't are the points.

"I think it proves that we're not on top of our game," said Cooke. "We're working hard and we're close and that just shows how close we really are."

Railing on about the Canucks' lack of scoring is thumping on the grave of the long-dead horse - it's been done...a lot. However, it's worth mentioning that though they've scored two or fewer goals in seven consecutive games, they're a respectable 11th in shots.

"We're getting quite a few shots so maybe a focal point would be getting a little more traffic in front," said Brendan Morrison. "There are rebounds lying around and we're not getting enough traffic around the net."

Maybe it's size, maybe it's systems, whatever it is, Vigneault's convinced the winds are bound to change in the near future. You simply cannot buck the laws of probability for long.

"I'm convinced that all this hard work down the line's going to pay off big time and we're going to stick with it," said Vigneault.

The Canucks average 31.4 shots per game, but have scored only 43 goals this season.


BINGO BANGO

Anyone who questions Roberto Luongo's drive either has their head three feet into the sand or is just plain crazy.

The prized keeper was on the ice 45 minutes before the rest of the team this morning.

Why? Because the Canucks have dropped back-to-back 3-2 decisions where he thinks he could have been the difference.

"Maybe mentally I'm struggling a little bit but I'm human like everybody else," said Luongo. "I'm trying to get out of it like everybody else on the team, so I'm just doing the best every time I'm out there."

With the team struggling on offence, there is pressure to be perfect, but short of using a 6-foot by 4-foot blocker, you can't stop them all. Some will get through and that's when a goalie needs a little help on the scoresheet.

"I just worry about my job," said Luongo. "I can't control what's going on in front of me. It's useless to get frustrated about things like that, because it just takes away from your own game and you get distracted by that."

Vigneault described Luongo's work this morning as the best he's seen him so far.


KEEPING THE HEAD DOWN

Like golf, they say, scoring goals is 90 percent mental.

Think about it too much and you start second-guessing, over correcting, and before you know it, you're game's in the toilet. The Canucks' challenge these days is to ignore the monster under the bed and just play hockey.

"Now it's almost a situation where you think about it so much that it starts to consume you instead of just going out, relaxing and playing, just react instead of thinking," said Morrison.

Look at the tape in the past seven games and watch how many pucks wobble in the every other direction than the opposing goal line and it's hard to wonder if there isn't a chicken bone or two buried under centre ice.

"I think we're capable of scoring goals," said Naslund. "I think right now we're not getting the bounces, we're not getting any luck. A lot of the players are squeezing the sticks a little too much."

"You really just have to guard against the frustration and tough times," said Cooke. "We have focus on the good things that are happening and watch the mistakes and make sure we correct them."


FLAHTTERED

The Canucks sent Dany Sabourin down to Manitoba today for a conditioning stint with an eye to starting him against his old team when the Canucks hit the Motor City next week.

The 26-year-old hasn't started since a 2-1 loss to the Oilers in mid-October.


TIME OUT

It's been suggested the Twins aren't getting ice time commensurate to their point totals. The Twins rank #1 and #2 in team scoring, yet average just under 19 minutes a game each.

Compared to other NHL forwards, Henrik is 65th (18:40) in average ice time while Daniel is slightly lower at 68th (18:34.

Martin St. Louis lead all forwards with 24:08 per game. Rod Brind'Amour logs 23:42, and Brad Richards plays 23:11.