It’s not a get-out-of-jail free card for Mason Raymond, but any struggling winger presented with an opportunity to possibly play with playmaking centre Henrik Sedin would liken it to possessing a trump card.
For every setback the speedy Vancouver Canucks winger has endured this season — not returning until Dec. 4 from a compression vertebrae fracture suffered in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, scoring just 10 goals and 20 points in 55 games and twice being a healthy scratch — there’s an air of anticipation for the first-time father because the second season presents a second chance for Raymond to right the wrongs.
If Daniel Sedin doesn’t return from a concussion for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday at Rogers Arena, Raymond will skate with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows and also play on the power play.
And even though he has just seven goals in 46 career NHL playoff games, there’s a feeling that the fleet-footed winger might be a series wild card. There’s plenty of motivation for the pending restricted free agent to prove that he warrants a contract extension and that his best days are ahead of him and not in the rear-view mirror. That breakout 25-goal season in 2009-10 seems so long ago.
“This is another level and another opportunity and it’s a great time to go out and try to prove yourself and show who you can really be,” Raymond said Tuesday.
“I don’t need to prove anything except to myself and my teammates. You have to stay even-keeled. There are a lot of highs and lows that come in the playoffs. I don’t know what the status of Danny is. Obviously, the best-case scenario is that he’s healthy and ready to play. If not, maybe I’ll skate with Hank. I’ve played with him from time to time and he’s going to give me some good looks at the net and some good opportunities.”
The Canucks are anxious to see if there’s another side to Raymond. Speed makes him defensively responsible and an asset on the penalty kill, and those wheels back off defenders. But he’s going to have to get to the net because he might be able to get past the blueliners and this series might just be the right fit for that.
“They do have some power forwards and a well-rounded defence and some exceptional goaltending, but I think we can try to exploit their defence a bit and use a north-south game with some speed,” said Raymond.
The Canucks aren’t expecting a John Druce explosion. The Washington winger had eight goals in 45 games during the 1989-90 season and then 14 goals in 15 playoff games. But they are expecting a better level of compete because it will likely decide Raymond’s future with the organization.
“I think he’s real excited about these playoffs,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He’s excited about turning the page on the season, and rightfully so. He’s been through quite a bit and it’s a new start.
“Every year, it’s funny how players become key contributors. For us to be successful, we’re going to need some players to take it to another level. That’s why these moments are here — so we can find out what players can do in it.”
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