VANCOUVER - Like the weather, the Vancouver Canucks have taken a turn for the better.
We all know this glorious sunshine won't last. The question is, will the Canucks?
Associate coach Rick Bowness saw many reasons for encouragement in Monday night's impressive 3-1 win over the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks and believes the team is on the right track with the playoffs now just a week away.
Bowness was particularly impressed by the Canucks' new-look second line with Derek Roy skating between Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins.
"I liked it a lot and they moved the puck really, really well," Bowness said after a highly optional practice Tuesday at Rogers Arena. "Kes was really dynamic on the wing. . .he made some great plays into the middle and was really into the game.
"And you can see Derek Roy, you get him in the middle and he is so good laterally. He can find people and he gives them a little bit more room. And Higgy (Higgins), he plays the same way every game no matter what. He just laces up his skates and goes to work and goes to play with all he has got. They looked very good last night, we were very pleased with that."
The Canucks seem to be committed to loading up their top two lines and gambling that Maxim Lapierre can handle third-line centre duties.
"Everyone in the league is doing it, take a look around," Bowness said. "Everyone has got two top lines, they gave got checking lines and they have got grinding lines. There's no secret to that. We were hoping there would be some chemistry there and from what we saw last night it's certainly worth another look."
Rookie defenceman Frank Corrado also figures to get another look on Thursday, when the Canucks close out their home schedule against the West's No. 2 seed, the Anaheim Ducks.
Like everyone else, Bowness was mightily impressed with Corrado's NHL debut. The 20-year-old logged just over 17 minutes of ice time and looked right at home skating in Vancouver's top four alongside Alex Edler.
"Last night it was just, 'you are doing great kid, go back out and let's just keep this thing going,'" Bowness joked.
"I like working with youg defencemen. I had Kevin (Bieksa), I had Eddie (Edler) and (Chris) Tanev and I am going to take the same approach wit this kid. You go play and we'll work around what you bring to the table. He has obvious strengths in terms of hockey sense and skills and he's a competitive guy. So when you are working with young players I've always said, go play and I'll coach around the little things we need to do to make you better."
The Canucks on Monday night looked like a much different team than the one that faded badly in their road trip finale late last week in Dallas and then managed to beat the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout on Saturday night despite being outshot 34-14.
Bowness thinks the team is fresher after a couple of recent days off, but he also believes some adjustments made before Monday's game also helped get their game back on track.
"Against Detroit it wasn't so much what they were doing, it was what we were doing," Bowness said. "We inflicted a lot of that damage on ourselves. Those things are easy to correct. We corrected some of the issues that were causing us problems agsint Detroit and which led to very few offensive chances and we were obviously giving up too many shots.
"We didn't hurt ourselves nearly as much last night than we had the previous game. We did a lot of things right, we played the right way and we took what was there. If we were forced to chip it in, we chipped it in. If you can carry it in, carry it in. If we had no play, get it out. All the little things that make you spend less time in your zone were done last night so we weren't giving up the shots against. And when you are doing that you are also giving yourself the opportunity to spend more time in the opposition's zone which means you should be able to get more shots."
The Canucks can't help themselves in the standings in their final two regular-season games. They know they will be the No. 3 seed in the West when the playoffs start, likely either next Tuesday or Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
And while Bowness would not rule out the possibility of some regulars being rested, he suggested the team must try to build on the momentum it got from Monday night's win over the Blackhawks.
"I don't know when we are going to start (the playoffs) so it's important that you don't get into any bad habits," he said. "If we start Tuesday night there's not a lot of time to prepare for that. We feel good about how we have played the last little bit and it feels good to win the division, but more importantly we have to feel good about how we are playing going into the playoffs.
"You play like we did last night and you want to get right back onto the ice and play again. So I think that will be our approach going into Thursday's game."
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