Practice Potpourri

Tuesday, 20.03.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Practice Potpourri

DOCTOR'S NOTE

Sami Salo left after the second period of Saturday's 4-1 win over the Red Wings with a pulled groin and sat out last night's 2-1 victory in Edmonton.

Willie Mitchell missed the last four straight with the same injury.

With two of the Canucks key defenceman out of the lineup, the Canucks recalled Alex Edler from the Manitoba Moose to help out on the blueline. It's Edler's fifth recall of the season.

The Canucks have been fairly lucky injury-wise most of the year - at least when you use a team like the Edmonton Oilers as a measuring stick. They curently have more NHLers in the Rexall infirmary than on the bench.

That's not to say the Canucks haven't sustained any serious blows - Ryan Kesler and Rick Rypien jump quickly to mind - they just haven't had a serious rash hit all at once. Hopefully the recent epidemic isn't the start.

Salo missed one game earlier in the season with a groin pull. His most recent setback doesn't appear all that serious either. Alain Vigneault says fans could see Salo back on the weekend.

"[Salo] will start to skate tomorrow but from what the [doctors] have told me, it's not serious and hopefully we'll get him back by Sunday also," said Alain Vigneault.

Mitchell, who's been battling with a groin injury since January, started on-ice training last week but felt pain after 30 minutes. He participated in a full team skate Tuesday afternoon and his progress is promising.

"I thought he looked pretty good today and I thought he'd have a chance for tomorrow," said Vigneault.

Mitchell's practice today was good, though his return remains in doubt.

"It's not fully there yet so we'll see how it is tomorrow," said Mitchell.

"It would only be a little gain coming back for next game versus a lot of risk so it's probably not too smart to come back next game. To be honest, right now I just couldn't, so we'll wait until Sunday."

Rypien, who's been struggling with a variety of injuries all season from his thumb at training camp to a torn groin muscle in his first real stint with the big club, also joined the team's practice today.

Kesler also took to the ice for about 20 minutes prior to the rest of the team.


CLASS ACT

For all the talk of Markus Naslund missing two power-play shifts against the Wings, you would think he was Britney Spears' barber.

The past three days have seen more airwaves and newspaper columns dedicated to the captain's mid-game break than the Trapper's Delight and the Toronto Maple Leafs have received combined.

As if there was any doubt about his character, Naslund was first to address his "benching" immediately after the Detroit win admitting that he didn't have his best game.

Tuesday he was on the ice early for some one-on-one practice with goaltending coach, Ian Clark, and Roberto Luongo.

Naslund's without a goal in six games and although the media pressure is enough to turn dirt to daimonds, he's been able to maintain his sense of humour.

"I think they wanted to build Louie's confidence so they threw me out there," he said.

"I usually work with out goalie coach, Ian Clark, when he's in town. I like to work with [Clark and Luongo] and work on my [skills]."

"It's always been like that, even when I did score, and I know I've gone six or seven games without scoring but I'll live with that."

Though it was Vigneault's decision to have Naslund watch a pair of power-plays Saturday night, he's positive Naslund will step up with offensive contributions when it counts.

"Markus is doing a lot of off ice and on ice extra work to get his game where it needs to be," says Vigneault. "He knows we need him and it's very positive to see him out there early, staying positive about getting to that level. I'm sure he's going to help us down the road."

Naslund's numbers don't tell the whole story - though he's a plus-three through 73 games and is second in goals to only Daniel Sedin. Last season he put up 32 goals and 79 points, ut was a minus-19 and teh team finished out of the playoffs.

Of his 22 goals, five have been game winners and eight have come on the power-play. This is the longest drought for Naslund since early January, but he strung together five and six game point streaks coming out of his last "slump", so it's seems it's just a matter of time for the Canucks' captain.

"Obviously I haven't scored the amount I'd like to and I'm sure there's a lot of different reasons for it, but hopefully we can get on a roll and keep it going and I can join in a play better too."

"It affects you to a certain extent but for me, I don't watch TV, I don't read the papers, and I think that's my way to guard myself from even more frustration. For me personally, the biggest disappointment is letting myself down and the pressure I put on myself - the expectation I have on how I should play."

Of course it always helps to have die-hard fans despite the media drone.

"My kids still think I do well - they're my biggest fans so it's great to have them."


LOOKING GOOD

The NHL debuted the new Reebok jerseys in Dallas at the 2007 All-Star game and the Vancouver Canucks got their first try in practice Tuesday afternoon.

Although not yet adorned with the orca crest on the front, players are giving their approval on the change.

"The first thing you notice is they feel a lot lighter on the ice even the socks are like our jerseys," said Kevin Bieksa. "I like them."

The jerseys are made with a spandex, four-way stretch pique core mesh body, which, according the science guys, provides a balance of ventilation and a range of motion in the underarm and back regions.

Hmmm... okay.

One player on the team is already familiar with the jersey, having sported one during All-Star weekend, and he has no complaints.

"They're light and very stretchy so they're not impeding any of my movements," said Robeto Luongo.

So there seems to be a good consensus on the feel of the jersey but how do they look?

"I don't think they look that bad," said Bieksa. "I don't know how they look from up top but they feel good."