Press Round-Up: MAR.12.08
Jason Botchford reports on the Canucks latest injuries and line adjustments:
Another game, another injury to a Canucks defenceman.
It's becoming as routine as good round of golf from Tiger Woods.
The latest in the medical room is Sami Salo, the Fragile Finn, who is suffering from back spasms. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said there was a "50-50" chance Salo would play tonight against the Ducks.
"Hopefully, the chances are better than that," Salo said in response, smiling. What Salo meant is anyone's guess. He wouldn't elaborate.
Mattias Ohlund, playing despite the fact he needs surgery on his knee, is also questionable for tonight's game. If both defencemen are unable to play, Nathan McIver, recalled Tuesday, will check into the lineup.
Ohlund will be day-to-day for most of the rest of the season, Vigneault said.
Brendan Morrison will be moved into the lineup gradually in his return from his wrist injury, even after he said his wrist felt fine following Monday's game.
"I didn't expect to see him in the lineup [Monday]," Vigneault said. "We'll move in gradually because he's only had two or three practices with the team, and that's not a lot. We have four games in six nights so we'll pace him this week and give him more next week."
That means he'll likely will continue to play on the team's fourth line.
"I have a new respect for the guys who play this role," Morrison said. "It can be really difficult to stay in the game and stay on top of things when you don't play for 10 minutes."
Vigneault said he likes what he sees when with Brad Isbister playing on the wing with Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler.
Every time Brad has played on that line, he's had a lot of success," the coach said. "He's a big body, and he's not afraid to drop the gloves.
"I don't think he talks as much as the other two."
Jason Botchford said Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler have established a chemistry that is like no other:
One player is of first-round pedigree, has lots of talent and was built from birth for hockey in his hometown near Detroit's infamous 8 Mile.
The other is a bit of a misfit, only in the NHL now because, in the lockout year, the Manitoba Moose took an extra forward and they, a little randomly, picked him, an undrafted, supposedly unskilled, definitely wild French Canadian from a small Montreal suburb.
On paper, they couldn't be more different. On the ice, they couldn't be more similar. Together, Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are the toast of the town, playing on a shut-down checking line that scores.
"It is so much fun to play with him, especially right now as we have a lot of chemistry," Kesler said. "Chemistry goes a long way, allowing you to know where each other is on the ice. It allows you to know, most of the time, what the other guy is going to do with the puck and without it.
"He's a fun guy to play with, a fun guy to hang around with and it's real easy to play with him. He'd probably say the same thing about me. We play exactly alike, and right now we are clicking."
They sure are. In the past 15 games, Kesler and Burrows have combined for 12 goals (six each), 10 assists, a plus-14 rating (Kesler is plus-4, Burrows plus-10). Their timing couldn't be better. The Sedin twins and Markus Naslund have combined for three goals in their last 10.
First paired in November, Kesler and Burrows have been a match made in Alain Vigneault's dreams, each making the other better and doing it with the type of hockey Vigneault lives for. They are firecrackers on skates, players locked into their coach's system who aggravate opponents with stinging (and funny) one liners on the ice and then laugh about it all post-game.
"We've never even been in an argument," Burrows said, smiling. "We're always smiling, joking with each other. We make sure we get under people's skin, especially [Kevin] Bieksa's because he's a bit of a rat. We just like to have fun. I'm louder, and Kes is a little quieter but he cracks a lot of jokes. Kes is from 8 Mile so he knows how to run the show. He is really funny."
The fact the two are even in the same league is somewhat remarkable. Kesler was a pro-in-training from youth, but Burrows said he never believed he would play in the NHL until he joined the Moose during the lockout at age 23.
"I was dreaming about it as a kid but going to the ECHL from junior I knew it wasn't likely," Burrows said. "But for some reason, in the lockout year the Moose kept an extra forward, they made one more roster spot and that was my spot. I'm not sure why they did it, it was random. All of a sudden, I was there playing with guys who had played in the NHL and I began to believe I could make it. For the first time, the dream became real."
One of Burrows' biggest road blocks came at the end of last season when he met with Vigneault. The pair had an exit meeting during which Burrows was told he had to pick up his game or risk losing his spot with the Canucks.
"He said I had done well in lots of areas -- the PK, bringing energy -- but he wanted me to bring more offence," Burrows said. "I was a point-a-game guy when I played for him in the AHL and then I play a year in the NHL and only get three goals. He couldn't believe it. I don't know how many more he wanted but I worked hard to produce more."
It's likely the 29 points Burrows has produced this season exceeds any of Vigneault's expectations.
"I was just lucky to get the chance to play with Kes this year," Burrows said. "It has made a lot of the difference. Together we click, we get ice time and now we just want to get to the playoffs together.
"We just want to complement each other and play well. ... It doesn't matter which one of us scores just as long as we win."
Jason Botchford said the 2008 stretch drive and the post-season may be the last run for Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund as teammates, a realization that provides both with extra motivation:
In their seven seasons together, they have missed the playoffs twice.
They said they are determined to do everything they can to make sure it doesn't happen again in what may be the last late-season run Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison share together as Vancouver Canucks.
Monday's game against Los Angeles was a good start. Morrison played for the first time in three months and said his wrist responded well while his legs felt fresh and faster than they've felt in a couple seasons.
For Naslund, the game against the Kings was a bit of a revelation, arguably the best he's played in weeks, even though he was held scoreless.
"I just went out there and relaxed," Naslund said. "For me, that's a big thing. Sometimes when I get down on myself, it just goes in the opposite direction. From now on, I'm just going to go out there and try to enjoy it all and help the team out as best I can."
Naslund was possibly helped by the decision to move him off the top line with the Sedin twins. He has had success in the past creating plays while others create space. While he played with the twins, who utilize their oft-debated cycle game, he probably didn't see the puck enough.
"I think I have to have the puck more than I've had it in a long time," Naslund said. "I have to hold on to it more and make things happen, make plays and shoot -- all those things.
"Hopefully, Monday was something to build on."
Naslund said he hasn't made any decisions about his future, which many believe won't be with the Canucks. If that's true, this is his last chance for a long run in the playoffs with Vancouver.
"You do think about it," Naslund said, adding he remains unsure how long he wants to keep playing. "When you have a family, you have to think a little further. But I honestly don't know. I haven't decided on anything."
He said one thing that will keep him playing is his desire to win a championship.
"You want to look back at your career and say you won something," Naslund said. "That being said, it's a tough task winning a Stanley Cup. Look at this franchise, it's been around for a long time and made it to two finals. But that makes it more exciting to get in and have a chance.
"When you get in, every year there is a team that surprises and hopefully we can get in and be on a hot streak."
Morrison said his wrist was tender but he remained "pretty happy" with the way it handled its first in-game test Monday. Most encouraging for Morrison is his speed. He has showcased it more and more during practices. In one drill Tuesday, Morrison's moves left Byron Ritchie shouting, "He's back!"
"My legs feel great right now, it's been a long time since they've felt this good," Morrison said.
"I didn't come back just to say I was in the lineup. I came back to be a guy who can make a difference. We'll see how it progresses.
"We'll keep monitoring my hand and gradually get my minutes back up to where they were."