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BRINGING WILLIE BACK

Friday, 26.01.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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BRINGING WILLIE BACK
The Canucks hoped to return to practice after five days off to a fully recovered Willie Mitchell but they will have to do without him for at least one more game, still suffering from a groin injury.

Mitchell played one period in Ottawa after missing two games but wasn't able to finish the game and consequently sat out against Buffalo.

"I'm feeling better but I'm not ready to go yet, I'm still kind of day to day," said Mitchell. "The break was nice. I'm feeling much the same as I did before the game I played in so I don't want to get into that situation again where I'm really anxious and get back there too early."

"I'm going to take it cautious this time and just make sure that I'm completely symptom free."

Mitchell's missed 12 games this season, three from the current injury and nine previously with a concussion. There are no certainties for his return date but he's feeling positive it'll be soon.

"I can't put a time frame but I don't expect it to be any longer than a week away, that's for sure," he said. "Definitely not [Friday's] game but the game after that - I'd love to play in that game. We'll take it day by day. I'd like to play in [the LA] game but the smart move would probably be the game after that but we'll see how it feels."

Mitchell attended the optional morning skate in Ottawa feeling confident and comfortable but didn't anticipate the pain during the game, which limited his play to only 7:14.

"I skated for about 20 minutes and I felt great, felt fine but with the groin, the more you skate on it, the more fatigued you get and that's when it gets sore and hurts. Now I'm skating longer and it does get to that point where it does get to that point where it starts to get tired and a little bit tight and sore where you're vulnerable so knowing that now, I'll be a little more cautious."

"Those are injuries that a guy needs to go through a full practice but I let Willie convince Berny [Mike Burnstein, medical trainer] and myself that he as ready to go and I shouldn't have done that," said Alain Vigneault.

With Mitchell out of the lineup for at least a few more days, the Canucks recall Yannick Tremblay from the Manitoba Moose to fill the missing spot on the roster.

Mitchell is a pivotal player in the Canucks first ranked penalty killing unit leading the team with 69 blocked shots.


DOCTOR'S NOTE

Ryan Kesler didn't practice yesterday to give him more time to rest his hip, which he says is still sore.

He found out late Thursday afternoon he will be out 12-16 weeks.

"He has the same type of injury that Brendan [Morrison] had last year," says Vigneault. "Brendan was able to play through it, I was under the impression yesterday that he was able to endure the pain. It's the same type of injury but not at the same area and he has no choice. He needs to have the operation."

Kesler has 16 points in 48 games and has been a key player on the Canucks penalty killing unit. More

Marc Chouinard will replace him on the roster and see ice time on the PK.

Rick Rypien, who's been out 20 games with a groin injury skated before the full team skate on Thursday but is still two weeks to a month away from returning.

Rypien's played two games with the Canucks before suffering the injury back in early December.

Good news on the injury front: Tommi Santala skated for the first time Thursday afternoon, participating in the full team practice but there's still no conclusive date for his return.

Santala has an assist and 62.8 face-off percentage in 10 games.


BEHIND THE BENCH

The L.A. Kings are not a divisional team, and they're not currently threatening the standings in the playoff race but with the frenzy surrounding this game, you might think that it is.

Maybe it has something to do with the guy who will be sitting on the other bench. Marc Crawford returns to Vancouver for the first time since joining the Kings.

Strange for Canuck fans to watch Crawford in action for the other team, yes but how strange will it be for the players?

"You mean, how strange will it be to hear him yelling from the other bench?" said Brendan Morrison with a chuckle.

But seriously.

"I think he's a great coach, he knows the game well," says Morrison. "It'll be different, he's been here a long time and he's made his mark on this franchise for the past seven years."

"It'll be a little different," said Markus Naslund. "I mean catching highlights, it looks weird having him in front of the Kings but we're focused on the game and that's the main thing."

Vigneault spent last year in Manitoba, where he would talk to Crawford from time to time but these two are not strangers.

"I've known Marc for a long time," Vigneault said. "He was a junior player in Cornwall and I was a junior player in Hull and we had some big wars back then so I've known about Marc's competitive nature for quite some time now."
We've all seen that "competitive nature" in action for some time now, so there were no doubt some stories from those junior days.

"We've had a couple battles, I'm sure."

"I couldn't tell you [who won], I can't remember, you're going to have to ask him," he says with a grin.

Vigneault's got four years of head coaching experience in the NHL compared to Crawford's 12 years and they've crossed paths before behind the bench.

"We got to know one another when I was in Montreal and he was with Colorado. I've know him for quite some time, he was in junior coaching Cornwall and I was in junior coaching Hull and we talked a couple of times a year at least."


ONCE WAS A KING

Vancouver's newest Canuck will face his former team tonight for the first time since being picked up off waivers by the Canucks on December 30.

Cowan has two points in eight games with the Canucks so far and seems to fitting in quite nicely. The team's really welcomed him and the city is growing on him.

"It's been awesome so far,' he says. "Staying at a hotel downtown and walking up Robson Street a lot. Fans are really great and people are already recognizing me around town, which is kind of nice. I'm not used to that coming from LA. People seem to be really nice."

"I just don't want to disturb anything because things are going so well."

Of course, going 10-1-1 since the Christmas break doesn't hurt either after playing 21 games with the Kings, who are 16-28-6 this season.

"Team's winning here so the guys are more upbeat and looser. Guys are joking around more. In LA we were losing almost every day so it's hard for the guys to joke around too much. So the locker room is a lot easier here."

He fits in a little better than you think. The red hair and being 6'2, you might confuse him for a couple of people already in the dressing room.

"They're already on me for looking like the Twins. I told them I'd maybe try to grow a beard later on in the year and see if we could have a third Sedin. We'd look pretty similar I'd imagine, though they're a little redder than I am."

Everyone's always talking about the Twins, maybe there's room for a triplet in there?