Canucks' Kassian trending in the right direction of late

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Zack Kassian has been one of the better Canucks of late, despite the team having lost five straight heading into Friday's tilt against the St. Louis Blues. (REUTERS)

Zack Kassian has been one of the better Canucks of late, despite the team having lost five straight heading into Friday's tilt against the St. Louis Blues. (REUTERS)

For a Vancouver Canucks team going through a season-high slump, at least there's some positives to focus on. And it seems part of the rage these past couple days has to do with Zack Kassian.

For some reason, the forward's name was still trending nationwide late Wednesday night, despite the Canucks not have played since Tuesday.

Then again, the highlight-reel goal he scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins and his latest resurgence is worth the chatter.

"It gives you guys something to talk about that I got two points," Kassian said of his latest effort, which also saw him get rewarded with a season-high 18:03 of ice time. "For me, I feel I've been playing pretty well the past six or seven games. Not a lot of point luck, but it's just a matter of working on moving my feet and being good in the D-zone and things will take care of itself from there."

This season, the Windsor native has been all over the map, from an early season suspension to a slight outburst of three goals in five games to being in coach John Tortorella's doghouse to finding a spot on the top six.

And now, the focus for the previously called "project" is on his defensive game, continuing Friday when the Canucks look to avoid a season-worst six-game slide against the St. Louis Blues.

"I need to block more shots, or get in lanes a little bit more, and battle a little better on the walls," he said. "My game is definitely coming along but saying that, I still have to do if I want to be a really good player in this league."

Offensively, the 22-year-old hasn't exactly lit it up the scoreboard either. Through 39 games, he has just eight goals and 11 points — having gone cold for five games prior to his two-point outburst against the Pens.

His three assists overall may come as surprising — on the low side — considering his sharp passes of late, which included a sweet feed to Chris Tanev to start off a sequence leading up to the defenceman's goal.

It's something his teammates have noticed as well.

"He's made a lot of great passes, and he's been dangerous with the puck," Mike Santorelli said. "He's been playing well and we're going to need him to get going."

More notes:

— Alex Burrows practised with a full-face shield Thursday, taking turns skating on the top line with the Sedins and Santorelli. The forward, who has been out since Dec. 1 with a broken jaw, admits he's close to returning.

"It's another step in the right direction today, but we'll see what the doctors say," Burrows said, adding he hasn’t been cleared to play.

— David Booth and Dale Weise both took turns on the fourth line with Zac Dalpe and Darren Archibald, meaning one or both could slot into the lineup against the Blues after being a healthy scratch last game.

But Weise claims that if he was a betting man, he wouldn't wager on himself playing Friday and said he hasn’t received any feedback from the coach.

— The Canucks finally practised the shootout Thursday with defenceman Jason Garrison coming away the top marksman, scoring four times on six attempts.

"There's no topic there," White Rock native said afterwards, with a laugh. "I do not expect a call after that."


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