Canucks Notebook: Chris Higgins moves to middle as Alain Vigneault seeks spark
Chris Higgins gets audition between David Booth and Zack Kassian Higgins on form between Zack Kassian and David Booth; Vigneault's between a rock and a hard place with Kessler out
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Now, ladies and gentlemen, we give you Chris Higgins as the Vancouver Canucks' new second-line centre. Or is it third-line centre? Or top nine centre?
Whatever number you want to put on the line, Higgins found himself between David Booth and Zack Kassian in the second period of Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
The line produced Vancouver's first goal, by Higgins, but it remains to be seen if coach Alain Vigneault sticks with it beyond the Wild loss. Higgins has played centre in the past and he may have to give it a go with Mason Raymond returning to left wing.
General manager Mike Gillis has left Vigneault with few options in the middle while Ryan Kesler nurses his broken foot.
“It was tough a little bit, I guess, switching mid-game but I've been playing with the team long enough to be able to make the transition,” said Higgins, who was 5-for-13 in the faceoff dot. “Playing with Booth and Kassian is pretty easy. On the goal, they did a great job of winning a couple of puck battles and bringing the puck to the net and I think it's something we can build on, at least.”
Vigneault was satisfied with their performance, if not with much else.
“I thought that line had a couple of good shifts and we're looking for some other lines to get rolling also,” commented the coach.
HURT LOCKER: Canuck defenceman Chris Tanev looked to have suffered a serious hand or lower right arm injury in the third period Sunday when he blocked a shot by the Wild's Clayton Stoner. He raced off the ice and straight to the dressing room in obvious pain but did return later to continue playing.
Vigneault had no further news on Tanev post-game and Tanev was not available as he was receiving treatment.
“I haven't seen our medical staff so I can't give you anything right now,” Vigneault explained.
Meanwhile, it appears Kevin Bieksa (groin) is getting closer to a return. He skated both Saturday and Sunday without apparent setback. The Canucks have lost all six games Bieksa has missed.
The right-side blueliner initially pulled himself from an outing in Nashville on Feb. 22, missed the next two, played well in a 5-2 win over the L.A. Kings March 2 but aggravated the injury during that game and has been out ever since.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Canucks were beaten across the board by the Wild in all the key categories. Minny outshot them 32-27, out-hit them 23-20, blocked more shots (12-7) and won more faceoffs (29-25).
Max Lapierre was the only Vancouver centreman above .500 on the draw as he went 7-for-13. Henrik Sedin was 8-for-18 and rookie Jordan Schroeder 2-for-6, including one loss during a 5-on-3 Canuck power play after Henrik was waved out.
QUOTABLE: “The power play is five guys working together, not just two.” – Alain Vigneault after being told Daniel Sedin said he and Henrik were costing the team points.
“It seems like there is a new reason and a new excuse every time we lose right now.” – Canuck winger Jannik Hansen, who was minus-2 and failed to score on a shorthanded breakaway for the second straight game.
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Chris Higgins and Chris Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate a goal by Higgins as Kyle Brodziak of the Minnesota Wild skates past during the second period of Sunday's National Hockey League game at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minn.
Photograph by: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images