Canucks notebook: Timing of hits now means everything for Virtanen

 

 
 
 
 
Jake Virtanen, Lars Eller
 
 

Jake Virtanen, Lars Eller

Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS, Vancouver Sun

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Henrik Sedin called it a late, blind-side hit and that the suspension was fair. The NHL Player Safety Department even called Jake Virtanen’s hard hit on Roman Polak on March 29 “predatory.” Willie Desjardins called it a learning experience.

Whatever spin you put on the collision that cost Virtanen a two-game suspension, the Vancouver Canucks winger doesn’t vow to change the way he plays when he returns to the lineup Monday on a line with Markus Granlund and Jared McCann against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena.

He can’t change. Aggressiveness is part of what helped the rookie crack the roster. But he can be smarter about picking his spots and not deliver the kind of heavy, late and blind-side hit that warranted a five-minute major game misconduct and supplementary discipline.

“I’m just going to finish my hits, but obviously when you see a guy, you can kind of tell when you do and don’t have time to hit him and let up a bit,” Virtanen said Sunday. “I could have hit him (Polak) even harder, but I just wanted to get body contact on him and it looked bigger than it was.

“It was shoulder-to-shoulder and I didn’t jump or hit his head and he obviously didn’t see me coming. He’s third in the league in hits and always laying them out there and in my mind, he was kind of admiring the pass a bit and just stood up. And at game speed, you don’t feel like it (hit) is so late and I was .3 seconds late. It’s a small time, but huge when they (league) break it down.”

Desjardins believes the scrutiny Virtanen endured from within the room and throughout the league for dropping the San Jose Sharks’ defenceman will make him a better player.

“He’s going to learn when he’s docked pay that there are consequences if you do that,” Desjardins said of the hit. “You’ve got to play the game and don’t back off playing physical, but play right. Accountability is big and everybody is going to hold him to that.”

Even Canucks captain Henrik had a problem with the hit.

“It wasn’t that Hank wouldn’t support him totally, but he can learn from that and it’s all about getting better,” added Desjardins. “We’re in position to win a game and a guy takes a five-minute major that costs you the game. Hank wasn’t calling him out or anything like that.”

VERSATILITY PEDAN’S KEY? Andrey Pedan can see a day when he and Nikita Tryamkin form twin towers on the back end for the Canucks. That view might be a bit blurry. Not only has Tryamkin passed Pedan on the depth chart, Desjardins also said there’s good reason why Pedan will line up at left wing again Monday amid a rash of injuries.

It’s some forward thinking.

“There are certain jobs that are open,” stated the coach. “One is getting to the net and battling hard. That job is open. The other that is kind of open is a guy who can play forward and defence. Maybe it’s not clearcut, but it gives you more of a chance to stay with us if you can do both.

“He (Pedan) is auditioning a bit for that job. Not just that. He can play a physical role, too. I’m not ruling him out as a D-man, but if I was a player, I’d like to find any way in that I could stay up.”

INJURY LIST KEEPS GROWING: Sven Baertschi and Chris Higgins (lower body) and Linden Vey (upper body) didn’t practise Sunday and will be out for a few days. It means the second line against the Kings will have Bo Horvat between Derek Dorsett and Emerson Etem, while Brendan Gaunce plays between Pedan and Alex Burrows.

bkuzma@postmedia.com

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Jake Virtanen, Lars Eller
 

Jake Virtanen, Lars Eller

Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS, Vancouver Sun

 
Jake Virtanen, Lars Eller
Jake Virtanen sat out two games for this hit.
Jake Virtanen: "He (Roman Polak) was kind of admiring his pass a bit and just stood up."
Andrey Pedan may be a winger or defenceman.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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