Nothing ‘special’ about Canucks power play, penalty killing so far
Notebook: Still, players and coaches see things getting better
VANCOUVER — Given the sorry state of their special teams, the Vancouver Canucks should probably consider themselves fortunate to sit atop the Northwest Division standings.
"I think if we can keep working on those special teams we can only get better," captain Henrik Sedin said Wednesday. "That's a positive moving forward that we have been able to win games without having a great power play or a PK."
Forget great. The Canuck power play and penalty-kill have not even been good this season.
Heading into Wednesday night's action, the Canuck power play was tied for 20th in the NHL with an efficiency rate of only 15.9 per cent. Their penalty kill isn't much better and was tied for 19th at 80 per cent.
Excellent special teams have been a staple of the Canucks in recent years. Two years ago, when they went to the Stanley Cup final, Vancouver's power play was tops in the NHL at 24.3 per cent and its penalty-kill was tied for second at 85.6 per cent.
The Canucks are on an 0-for-15 run on the power play over the last six games, although coach Alain Vigneault did see some positives in Tuesday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.
"Our power play was 0-for-5 and the first two were not efficient, but I liked the last three," Vigneault said before the Canucks left for Columbus, where they begin a three-game trip on Thursday (4 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040). "We got some good looks. I think we got something like 10 scoring chances which is quite a lot and the chances that we got, a lot of them were Grade A.
"We did everything we could except finish and score. This is a performance-based business and at the end of the day you have to score. But it seemed like last night was the first time in a while that our power play had more than one or two opportunities in a game and finally had some quality puck movement, some quality chances. So hopefully we took a step in the right direction."
The key to kick-starting the power play may lie with Daniel Sedin. As Jeff Paterson of Team 1040 noted Wednesday, Daniel has just seven shots on Canuck power plays this season and only one in the last 28 Vancouver power-play opportunities. Two of Daniel's eight goals this season have come on the power play.
ALL ABOARD: Injured defencemen Keith Ballard and Kevin Bieksa both made the trip Wednesday. Bieksa definitely won't play Thursday in Columbus and Ballard is probably doubtful.
Ballard suffered a charley-horse in the second period of Tuesday night's game when he was hit by San Jose forward Andrew Desjardins.
"I just tried to get out of the way of a hit in the second in the corner," Ballard said. "As I was moving his leg clipped mine … It stiffened up quite a bit between the second and third."
But Ballard said he felt significantly better Wednesday morning.
"From last night to this morning, it's a lot better than I thought it would be so hopefully it continues on that same path."
Bieksa, who has missed four of the last five games with a groin problem, was not made available for an interview Wednesday. But Vigneault described his condition as day to day and said Bieksa will skate some with the team while it is away.
WHO'S IN GOAL? Before boarding the team's charter flight, Vigneault said he had decided who would start in goal Thursday, but had not yet informed his two goalies.
Vigneault acknowledged that both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have not been razor sharp of late.
"At the end of the day both goaltenders have had some real solid moments, both both goaltenders have had some moments that I'm sure they'd like to have back," he said.
"Both goaltenders would like to get on a roll and we'll see what happens here. We're no different than any other team. You need that Grade A-plus goaltending to win on a consistent basis. That is just part of the NHL today."
ICE CHIPS: Winger Nicklas Jensen, who has wrapped up his season with AIK of the Swedish Elite League, could join the Chicago Wolves as early as this weekend … Goalie Danny Taylor, who beat the Canucks on Sunday night in Calgary, has been reassigned to the Abbotsford Heat by the Flames.
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