Canucks need Olympian effort for playoff run
Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella talks to an official durint a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Vancouver 3-1. Feb 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario. (Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Some will return with hardware, others empty-handed, but none of that matters for the Olympians on the Vancouver Canucks now, or really, everyone else on the team for that matter.
With the Canucks having entered the Winter Games break on one of the worst droughts in recent franchise history — having lost seven straight in regulation — there's a more important issue at hand — the two more games left in February.
Beginning Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena, the Canucks will look to avoid going winless in a month other than April for the first time in club history. That's the focus. That's the goal.
“Playoffs start Wednesday for us," Zack Kassian said Monday as the team practised with just 13 players. "Everyone is rejuvenated, and everyone is excited for the second half. It's not like past years where we're almost guaranteed a playoff spot. Obviously we don't want to be in the situation we're in but we're taking it in open arms and are ready for the challenge."
Forward Chris Higgins said the Canucks need to be ready to play. “We're trying to work through some problems we had before the break there."
Either way, there was still some buzz around what happened at the Sochi Olympics with Canada's dominant performance to claim gold after beating Sweden 3-0 in the final Sunday.
Canucks backup goalie Eddie Lack lost a bet with a friend and the Swede will now need to get an ear pierced — although he's trying to back out of it.
The team was missing most of their Olympians at practice as Canadian champions Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis flew into Vancouver Monday. Swedes Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler and American Ryan Kesler are back in town, while Swiss Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz skated with the team.
As for injuries, the Canucks were without several key players, including captain Henrik Sedin (personal), forward Alex Burrows (hand), and defencemen Kevin Bieksa (foot) and Chris Tanev (thumb).
"All the teams are going through it," head coach John Tortorella said of the ailments. "We're doubled up with our injuries still, but we just got to move forward here and try to prepare the best we can with the numbers that we have."
With the NHL trade deadline March 5, the Canucks have a just over a week left if they are to make a move. General manager Mike Gillis told Team 1040 Monday that he wants to bring in someone to play alongside Kesler — who, according to Gillis, was banged up during the Olympics after blocking a shot.
“Maybe we'll be making some hard decisions or maybe we won't be making any decisions at all," Gillis told the radio station, while also hinting that prospect Nicklas Jensen — who has scored eight goals in his last 10 games with the Utica Comets in the AHL — could get called up to the big club sooner rather than later. "We'll have to see where our team is at over the next week," he said.
The Canucks have also recalled forward Kellan Lain for Wednesday's game.