|THE CANADIAN PRESS
|Rookie Raymond suits up on top line
Canadian Press notes the rarity of two rookies starting on the top two lines.
“Most rookies don't get to make their NHL debut on a team's first line.”
“Mason Raymond is an exception. The 22-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., will skate alongside top-scoring twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin as the Vancouver Canucks open their season Friday night against the San Jose Sharks at GM Place” the Press said.
"Obviously, it's a big open window for myself," said Raymond. "I want to jump (in). I want to take advantage of it."
The Press says it's somewhat of a surprise that Vigneault would place this much pressure on Raymond considering the player’s hockey experience.
“Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is placing considerable faith in Raymond, considering that the winger has only 24 games of pro experience - 11 in the regular season and 13 in the playoffs - with the AHL's Manitoba Moose.”
Not only does Raymond have an excellent chance of leaving a lasting impression, but Shannon, as well, has the opportunity to play with star players, Naslund and Kesler.
“He's willing to be patient with Raymond and 23-year-old forward Ryan Shannon, who will play on the team's second line with Ryan Kesler and Markus Naslund,” the Press said.
|THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
|Worst Trade in NHL History
There are regrets in the air back in Florida as they watch Luongo thrive in Vancouver. In a published report, “Panthers coach and GM Jacques Martin and captain Olli Jokinen agree that the Luongo deal is probably [the worst trade in NHL History].”
"Probably. As far as this franchise, yes," Jokinen said. "It was shocking. It was a bad move." On the day of the Panthers' season opener against the Rangers, The Miami Herald printed an interview in which Martin was asked "True or false — the Roberto Luongo trade is the worst trade in the history of your sport?" Martin, according to the paper, replied "True."
| Weaver has little doubt
Ben Kuzma gives an update on recently signed defenseman Mike Weaver, who will start tonight alongside Mattias Ohlund.
Kuzma notices that Weaver is, “short in stature but long in determination."
Though one of the smaller men of the NHL, “[the Canucks] see a 182-pound blueliner who plays bigger than his size and brings the flexibility of a two-way contract,” Kuzma said.
"He's an underrated player and people will be impressed with how hard he plays," said Canucks defenceman Aaron Miller, a former L. A. teammate.
"I'm the goalie's best friend," said Weaver. "I try to keep things simple. I might get a couple of points, but I'd rather block a shot than score a goal."
| Getting Comfortable: Only 82 games to go.
Jason Botchford knows exactly how high fan expectations can be.
“Strangely, for a team that made few changes during the offseason, the expectations have grown exponentially since that second-round playoff loss to the Ducks in May.”
Botchford notes, “The first game provides a compelling early test for the Canucks, who find themselves matched against San Jose, a Stanley Cup favourite that is as young, and as loaded a team as you'll find in the NHL.”
“Not only are they stacked with young talent throughout the lineup, they now have a fantasy-like top line with Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. It is the most intimidating in the NHL.”
As something you can keep your eye on during the game, Botchford lists “the Big Five things you need to watch for, starting tonight:
- The Sedins
“Their role on last year's team has been grossly undervalued by those who mistakenly believe Roberto Luongo was a one-man show,” Botchford said.
To prove the value these twins contributes, Botchford brings out the stats.
“Last year among forwards, Henrik ranked 73rd in the NHL, averaging 18:25 a game while Daniel was 89th with an 18:03 average.”
- Ryan Shannon on the Power Play
Botchford says that Ryan Shannon has a big chance to be a key player on the Canucks.
‘He is probably the only one in the world, but following his trade to the Canucks, Ryan Shannon saw himself starting opening night on the Canucks' No. 1 power play as the right-handed shot alongside the Sedin twins.”
"Hopefully, we can get on the scoreboard early," Shannon said. "I expect to do well. I want to have a good start. I think a big start is huge for my confidence going through the rest of the season. I have a lot of expectations."
The Canucks love to bring a tough game, but it doesn't always help their cause.
“The Canucks were the sixth-most penalized team in the NHL last year and they've keyed this area as a place where they can make a dramatic improvement,” Botchford said.
“Overall, Mattias Ohlund and Kevin Bieksa led the Canucks in taking minors. Bieksa had 42 and Ohlund had 40. They must find ways to keep the stick infractions down.”
"Last year, we were in the top third in taking two-minute minors," Vigneault said. "If we could drop that down to the bottom third, it would permit us to spend more time five-on-five and possibly more time on the power play to possibly score more goals.
- Taylor Pyatt
Botchford says the Canucks need Pyatt to be a goal scorer if they're going to repeat as Northwest champs.
“Coming off a career year, Pyatt faces the challenge now of proving he can score goals without the help of the Sedin twins.”
“Pyatt is a goal scorer, for now, on the Canucks' third line with Brendan Morrison and Matt Cooke,” Botchford notes.
Botchford adds that Pyatt will get a chance to prove his worth as he is “on the Canucks' second power-play unit, where he needs to be a factor in front of the net.”
- Ryan Kesler with Markus Naslund
Botchford said, “The Canucks have been waiting to give this combination a long look since last January.”
But now with a years of experience on his belt, the butterflies are beginning to disappear.
"I think [in my first two seasons] I was a little nervous out there and when you're nervous you tend to get the puck and get rid of it," Kesler said. "Now, I'm holding onto it a little more and starting to get back to my game, which is being a playmaker.
"They're giving me a big opportunity here."
|THE VANCOUVER SUN
|Ready to Rumble
Brad Ziemer comments on how significant the first game of the season can be.
"There's a discernible buzz in the air and it's not because we're heading into a Thanksgiving Day long weekend. It's finally hockey season, the real hockey season, and tonight the Vancouver Canucks begin their 37th run at Lord Stanley's mug," he writes.
"Opening night is about the closest thing you can get to the playoffs," centre Brendan Morrison said Thursday. "I remember last year driving down and getting close to the rink and you can sense it. It's just kind of this feeling that is in the air ... it's fun to be part of."
Although the team is set, Ziemer knows that the players are mobile and everything is determined by performace.
Ziemer mentions, “For head coach Alain Vigneault, who begins his second season behind the Canuck bench, tonight will be the first time he sees his full team against bona fide NHL competition.”
"The first game is always a special one in the sense that you want to make sure you get things going the right way and see where you are as a team," Vigneault said after Thursday's practice. "It's really the first opportunity that we get where there is going to be NHL teams on the ice and there is going to be NHL intensity. So it's our first real evaluation of what we think our group is capable of doing."