Canucks audition Jannik Hansen on Sedins’ power-play flank
Finnish winger coming off best NHL campaign in which he scored 16 goals and 23 assists
VANCOUVER — Right-winger Jannik Hansen played in Finland during the lockout and it appears he will have an opportunity to display his Finnish on the Vancouver Canucks' first-unit power play.
Coach Alain Vigneault unveiled his extra-man combos at practice Wednesday and there was Hansen, third-line grinder, setting up with the Sedin twins, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison on the top group. With the regular season beginning Saturday, there is no time for Jannik to panic. He has scored 40 goals in his 271-game NHL career.
“It's the third day of camp,” Hansen smiled as a throng of reporters probed him for a reaction to his new assignment. “There is still a lot of stuff to be done. Obviously it's an opportunity for me. You're being put in a position to succeed and, if you don't, somebody else will be put in that situation.”
Hansen, 26, is coming off his best NHL campaign in which he scored 16 times and added 23 assists. A right-handed shot, Hansen essentially replaces the injured Ryan Kesler, who is also a right-handed shot.
“Jannik does make a lot of sense,” Vigneault explained. “Throughout the years at different times, we have used him with the twins and it has worked out for us. Jannik has more skill than I think people give him credit for but I also think he doesn't mind going to those tough areas. He's a real solid net presence and the fact he's a right-handed shot helps.”
Hansen understands fully how to play with the twins. Let them handle the puck, stay out of the way, create havoc in front of the opposition goalie. Henrik Sedin admitted the twins had some input into deploying Hansen on their power-play unit.
“Playing with those two, you know what your job is,” said Hansen, once a long shot to make the NHL when he was drafted 287th overall in 2004. “It's puck retrieval, it's getting in front of the net, it's doing the battles. I'm hoping I'll be able to do that.
“Obviously it's nice to know that the twins believe in me and want me out there with them,” he added. “Again, it's a matter of proving I belong. Nothing is given.”
Henrik did give the Dane a hearty endorsement, although he has been known to do so with almost every player who has auditioned on his line, whether it be 5-on-5 or power play.
“I've always said Jannik is very under-rated as an offensive player,” said Henrik. “He can make things happen out there. He's got a great shot and he's a good skater. He's not scared to stay there when Garrison and Edler are taking slappers from the blue line.
“Our coaching staff is good at involving players a little bit in discussions about the lineup. It can't be too much, but we think Jannik could be a good fit there and we'll see what happens.”
Henrik does like the fact Hansen is a right-handed shot, more for the power-play break-ins than the actual down-low action tight to the net. Kesler had stupendous success two years ago being the twins' right-handed man.
“I think coming up the ice to have a right-handed shot makes a bigger difference than the in-zone play,” Henrik said.
The Canucks practised with three separate units on Wednesday. The second unit featured rookie Jordan Schroeder between Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins with Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa on the points. The third group was comprised of Andrew Ebbett with Zack Kassian and Mason Raymond. Newcomer Cam Barker and Keith Ballard manned the blue line.
On Thursday, Vigneault will trot out his penalty-killing units, not quite as sexy a story as the power play but just as essential to a team's success.
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