Canucks’ Keith Ballard’s ‘career’ at forward nearing an end
Notebook: If Steve Pinizzotto, Zack Kassian ready to return, then it’s back to the blue line
VANCOUVER — It appears Keith Ballard’s days as a swift-skating, forechecking, pesky left-winger for the Vancouver Canucks are coming to an end.
Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness confirmed Wednesday that if forwards Steve Pinizzotto and Zack Kassian are ready to go – Pinizzotto is, for sure – then Ballard will return to his accustomed spot on the blue line. Ballard has skated as a forward for three of the last four games while the team went through an injury crisis.
“When you have a defenceman playing left wing, it would be nice to get one of those other guys back,” Bowness said. “Keith has done an outstanding job for us and give him credit for sucking it up and taking one for the team. He’s actually played very well but he is a defenceman. So would we like to get one of our forwards back? Yes.”
Pinizzotto has missed four games due to dehydration and exhaustion but skated for a third straight day and declared himself fit to face the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Kassian has also missed the last four games with back issues. He remains day-to-day.
Pinizzotto, a 28-year-old rookie, has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons and has appeared in just four NHL games after debuting March 14 against Nashville. He missed all of 2011-12 after a training camp shoulder injury that required surgery. He then began this lockout shortened campaign with a groin tear.
“I feel like it just keeps happening,” lamented Pinizzotto. “I think I have the best physio regimen that is out there. I mean, I feel like I’m just doing physio all the time. But it comes with a hard style of play and it’s part of the game. That’s why we have the training staff we do, to keep us in shape and keep us going. I feel like everything should start to work out here.”
Kassian, meanwhile, was less certain he would be ready for the Avs.
“It’s day-to-day right now but it feels good and I had a good skate today,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s getting closer definitely. It’s going to be a game-time decision, probably.”
Kassian made the mistake of challenging St. Louis forward Chris Stewart in his first game back after missing the previous two. The fight returned him to the sidelines.
“It was my idea,” admitted Kassian. “I didn’t feel any pain going into it. I was ready to go. I could have went through that and felt great but obviously it acted up again.”
NO SKATE FOR YOU: Canucks coaches had scheduled a full practice for Wednesday and then changed their minds, sending all the regulars home to rest. Thursday’s game against the Avs will be the team’s seventh in 11 days.
“We’ve had a tough grind,” Bowness explained. “There is no question we’re banged up and there is no question that when you’re banged up, there is a lot of onus on the players who are playing and playing more minutes and playing in different situations.
“So when you come in in the morning, you have a chance to evaluate everything. You calm down from the night before and take another look at it and you know what? The best practice for us would be no practice. Let the players recover mentally as much as physically.”
The Canucks, of course, defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0 in a shootout Tuesday.
QUOTABLE: “Whatever happens happens, if anything does happen.” – Zack Kassian, sounding Todd Bertuzzi-like, when asked about the players’ mood heading into next Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline.
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