Canucks’ David Booth joins Ryan Kesler on long-term injury list (with video, poll question)
Step up, Zack Kassian? Young, rugged winger may be needed to fill second-line void
VANCOUVER — With the lockout over, talk has turned from CBA, DOI and MOU to something more conventional for the Vancouver Canucks: H-E-L-P!
The news Tuesday that second-line winger David Booth will miss four to six weeks with a groin injury sent a ripple through the Canucks’ room as players tried to take stock of the situation. Obviously it will mean more ice time for some and a spot in the lineup for others.
Opening night isn't far off now — Saturday, 7 p.m., vs. the visiting Anaheim Ducks — and the Canucks will start minus Ryan Kesler and now Booth, too. No wonder Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wasn't winking and cracking jokes at his press conference Tuesday.
Neither were many of Booth's teammates. Booth was injured during an on-ice test Sunday morning, the first event of training camp.
“With Dave being down, that's a huge hole for us,” noted fourth-liner Dale Weise. “That's a tough injury. He's a big body, a good skater and can score goals. You can't really replace a guy like that. Obviously it opens up a little more room on the right side. I think Zack Kassian is there right now and I think he'll do a great job.”
Kassian, the player obtained in last February's Cody Hodgson controversial trade, was not taking a thing for granted even though he's been skating in Booth's second-line position the last two practices. It seems likely he'll at least start there Saturday unless GM Mike Gillis pulls off the Roberto Luongo trade and fetches some second-liners in return.
“Nothing has been told to me,” responded Kassian, who turns 22 on Jan. 24. “There is no comfort, none at all. They're going to pick the best possible guys and there are a number of guys who can play any position. Just because I play right wing doesn't mean it's my spot to lose, or whatnot. I have to go out and prove myself. Hopefully, on Saturday night, I can start there.”
Without Kesler and Booth, versatile Chris Higgins may find himself logging some minutes on one of the power-play units. Vigneault intends to unveil his power-play combos at Wednesday morning's practice so players will know soon enough where the dominoes are falling.
Higgins managed to crack one of the rare jokes in the room Tuesday when asked how much power-play time he thought he might get, if any.
“Whatever Hank and Danny want to give us at the end there,” he quipped, referring to the Sedin twins' ability to sometimes spend an entire two minutes in the offensive zone. “I played a bunch on the power play last year. We'll see what the coaches want to do with that.”
Like Weise, Higgins figures Booth's presence, and especially his speed, will be sorely missed.
“He's got raw power that not too many guys in the league have,” he said. “When he gets going, there are not too many people who can keep up with him and that combination of speed and power is a big asset for this team. We're definitely going to miss that.
“Getting injured in testing was something I was worried about, too. We were doing a lot of stops and starts and pretty much going until exhaustion,” Higgins continued. “The stopping and starting puts a lot of stress on your groins and your hip flexors. I made it through that part all right but you're still in the danger zone the first couple of days of camp. If you're not warming up properly and not doing the right things, you may hurt yourself.”
Booth's injury will likely filter down to bubble player Aaron Volpatti, who's been patrolling left wing on the fourth line with Weise and centre Manny Malhotra during camp. Volpatti didn't play a single game in the calendar year 2012 after he was sidelined Dec. 1, 2011 with a shoulder problem that required major surgery.
The Revelstoke native was contemplating heading for Europe, possibly Hungary, during the lockout but instead opted to stay in Vernon and skate with the BCHL's Junior A Vipers. He had one goal in 23 games with the Canucks last season before his surgery.
“We were skating five days a week so I was getting a good practice atmosphere there,” he explained. “I just couldn't really pull the trigger to go to Europe and then something got done with the new CBA so it worked out. For sure, I feel game ready. The scrimmages we're going to have in the next couple of days will be beneficial for myself.”
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