On The Road Again

Saturday, 30.12.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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On The Road Again

ONE STEP AT A TIME

DEC.30.06


THE SMALL DIVIDE

It's amazing how the Western Conference standings can change over night. On Wednesday the Canucks jumped from 11th spot to third place in one game.

It doesn't happen too often and even veteran players like Trevor Linden find amusement in it.

"It's pretty remarkable that we went from 11th in the conference to third, so when you see five teams like that all swapping places every night, it's unusual," said Linden. "It's going to be fun and puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on every game. We've got divisional games coming up so it certainly makes it interesting."

Although the Canucks are the only team in the Northwest with an inter-divisional record below .500, they have won five of their last eight divisional meetings.

"I think it's an extremely competitive division, no doubt about it, and some teams might be underachieving a little bit right now but you know you're in for a tough battle every time you play your divisional games," says Markus Naslund.

The Northwest has usually been a tight battle but being separated by one point is still something to talk about.

"I think that everybody who follows the league closely knows," said Vigneault. "All the teams are very competitive and very tight and it makes it interesting for everybody - players, coaches, and fans."

As of Friday, the Canucks' 39 points had them atop the Northwest, though with four other teams only one point back, that will change.

"We might not have the best team in our division but I think overall if you look at the average we probably have the strongest division," said Naslund.

Vancouver has played the most games against divisional rivals, having already played 15 games and have four in the next two weeks.

Minnesota has faced the fewest divisional teams, only playing ten of their 32 divisional games so far. Calgary has played 11, Edmonton has played 12 and Colorado's played 13 divisional games.


BURROWING BACK

The Canucks re-assigned Yannick Tremblay to the Manitoba Moose on Friday, after playing 12 games with the Canucks. Tremblay has three points in his stint with the Canucks and provided a new-look on the power-play.

Tremblay dressed as the seventh defenceman on Wednesday night against the Flames after a hip injury sidelined Alex Burrows. With Tremblay back in Manitoba, it is likely Burrows will be back in the lineup in Edmonton.

"It's only a bruise that will probably go away so maybe in the next 24 hours it's going to be good," said Burrows. "I felt pretty good this morning in practice and hopefully I'll be back in tomorrow night."

Burrows is still waiting for his first goal but will have a great chance on Saturday against the Oilers, who are 4-6-0 in the last ten games.


COWAN CLAIMED

The Canucks announced Saturday morning they claimed 30-year-old forward Jeff Cowan off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

Cowan played 21 games under Kings' head coach Marc Crawford this season recording two assists and 32 penalty minutes. In 325 career NHL games, Cowan has 40 goals, 30 assists (40-30-70) and 492 penalty minutes.

He won't likely challenge the Twins for the team scoring lead, but Cowan's got a deceptively quick shot and scored 32 goals with the Barrie Colts in his final year of junior. What he will bring is an added measure of toughness in a depth role.

The 6-foot-2, 210 lbs., native of Scarborough, Ontario has played for the Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Kings in his seven year NHL career. Cowan was originally signed by the Calgary Flames as a free agent in 1995.


NO WORRIES

Although he's without a goal in 13 games, there's no need to worry about the Canucks Captain.

"He's not the first player to go through a tough stretch and he won't be the last," said Vigneault. "What you have to do as a player is to stay positive, keep energized, and go back to the things that got you success. Markus is aware of that and he's a professional and he's going to work his way out of this."

The Canucks all-time leading goal-scorer, with 309 goals in a Canuck uniform and 334 career goals, there's no doubt that Naslund will get through the slump. The Canucks organization's not worried and he's not worried about it so fans can relax and just wait for the goals to come again.

"I think I've gotten to the point now where all I can do is try to be positive and not be hard on myself" said Naslund. "I know eventually I'm going to get out of this funk and feel like normal again. The toughest thing is probably the pressure I put on myself."

"I'm not too worried about Markus," said Vigneault.

"[He's] going to be fine."