VANCOUVER - David Booth is a believer, in God and himself.
Booth acknowledged Wednesday he has leaned heavily on his faith to get through what have been two frustrating years with the Vancouver Canucks. Most recently, it helped him deal with his conditioning stint with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.
“Sometimes when everything is good you kind of think you are entitled to your own success and sometimes when you are pulled back and don’t have the earthly success you once had or think you deserve it humbles you a little bit and makes you realize there’s a bigger purpose,” Booth said after practising with the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Booth’s two-week conditioning stint was cut short when he was recalled Tuesday after three games with the Comets. He will be back in Vancouver’s lineup on Thursday night when the Canucks begin a six-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks.
While he was initially shocked when he was asked to go to Utica, Booth insists the experience was a positive one that he hopes will help him kick-start his season with the Canucks.
“I had a good time down there,” Booth said. “It was fun playing a lot. You are just in the game, you don’t really think the game, you just go out and play and that is something I haven’t done in a long time. It was a lot of fun playing those minutes and being with the guys having their first win. I think there was nothing but positives.”
The Canucks sprung the conditioning stint on Booth, who has played in only 11 of Vancouver’s first 20 games this season. He was hurt for the majority of the games he missed, but was a healthy scratch for the Oct. 22 game on Long Island.
He was expecting to accompany the team on its recently completed four-game road trip, but instead was asked by coach John Tortorella to go to Utica. Booth, who had to agree to the move, insisted he was not angry about the temporary demotion.
““It kind of happened so quick,” he said. “It was kind of a shock right there. It wasn’t as shocking as the trade, but it was like, ‘man, this is a new experience.’ No, I wasn’t angry at all. I very seldom get really angry. I try to take things and look at the whole (picture) and pick out why this is good for me and that’s what I did. Looking back on the big picture, I think this was great.”
Booth played big minutes in his three games with the Comets and picked up one assist. Utica, which had lost its first eight games, won two of three with Booth in the lineup.
Booth said it felt good again to play major minutes and feels like he has gained some confidence.
“I haven’t played many games in the last two years,” he said. “When I was back in Florida I was playing 20 or 22 minutes and that’s when things just happen. Like I said, you don’t think the game, you just go out and play. Now when you’re given a different role on a team I think every mistake is magnified and then you start really questioning yourself. That’s something, being a professional, you have to put behind you. It’s a lot easier said than done.”
Tortorella, whose frustration with Booth’s play has been evident, sounded Wednesday like he’s ready to give him a second chance.
“David had to agree to it,” Tortorella said of Booth’s conditioning stint. “It shows me and the organization that he wants to get better. He just hasn’t played and I think he needs reps and he got reps down there. We got some good reports, so I just want him to let himself go and play because he’s a pretty good player. He’s a really good player when he’s on. So hopefully that will help him.”
Booth has a goal and two assists in his 11 games with the Canucks this season and has averaged just 13 minutes of ice time a night. He has skated mainly on the third line and that is where he practised on Wednesday, alongside Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian.
“You have to go out and earn them (minutes) and the way I have done that in the past is to just play a north-south game, get the puck in the offensive zone, spend quality time in the offensive zone versus the defensive zone,” he said.
“Obviously I want to play more. That is the frustrating part. But if the team is playing good and you have a role . . . we have a good opportunity to do some good things. I just want to be on a winning team and be a part of that winning team and contribute. You want it all.”
Booth said the past couple of years have been a test for him.
“I am playing 12 games last year and then being scratched you try to look back and say, ‘okay, what are you learning through this whole process?’ But I just want so bad to be back playing a lot and contributing. You put so much pressure on yourself to get there and sometimes that can be a negative. You just have to use that energy, emotion to make yourself a better player.”
The Canucks would say Amen to that.
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