Canucks hopeful Steve Pinizzotto sees NHL opportunity finally knocking
Rugged winger joins Vancouver for his overdue shot at making a difference
VANCOUVER — When the Chicago Wolves were in Abbotsford this past October for a two-game series with the Heat, winger Steve Pinizzotto described his National Hockey League dream this way: “I’ve thought about it for 28 years now.”
Well, that lifelong dream — now almost 29 years old — seems about to finally become a reality, perhaps even as soon as Thursday.
Pinizzotto was scheduled to complete his two-week conditioning stint with the Wolves on Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Canucks’ assistant general manager Laurence Gilman confirmed the rugged winger will join the team Thursday.
He figures to play his first NHL game either Thursday when the Canucks open a four-game homestand against the Nashville Predators or on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
To paraphrase something broadcaster Jim Robson once said about Trevor Linden, at this point Pinizzotto would play on crutches.
“I’ve had a little bit of bad luck, some adversity, but the door is kind of creeping open here, so I just want to make the best of my opportunity,” Pinizzotto said over the phone Wednesday from Grand Rapids.
“I haven’t heard anything yet to be honest so I have to deal with tonight first and go from there.”
But Gilman indicated Wednesday that Pinizzotto will join the Canucks on Thursday. Pinizzotto was placed on the Canuck roster prior to his conditioning stint, so there is a spot here waiting for him and the Canucks do not have to waive anyone to make room for him.
Pinizzotto’s NHL and Canuck debut probably should have occurred 18 months ago. He missed all of last season after injuring his shoulder in a Canuck pre-season game when it looked like he was going to crack the team out of training camp.
He was expected to compete for a job at this season’s short post-lockout camp, but was out with a groin injury.
Before signing with the Canucks last season, Pinizzotto languished in the minor league system of the Washington Capitals. Despite two solid seasons with the AHL Hershey Bears, during which time he registered 83 points and 302 penalty minutes, Pinizzotto never got a sniff with the Capitals.
“It’s been a long time coming, but that’s how the cards played out and I can’t dwell on the negatives from the past,” he said Wednesday. “I want to focus on the future.”
The Canucks are anxious to finally get a look at Pinizzotto in their lineup.
“He was a very sought-after commodity when we signed him nearly two years ago,” Gilman said. “He had a very productive training camp and was well on his way to earning a spot on our roster when he got injured. Unfortunately, he has had injury issues this year. But that being said, there is clearly a premium on players like this in the marketplace.
“There’s a very high degree of probability that he would be picked up on waivers. There have been a lot of people around the league asking questions about him.”
Although Pinizzotto figures to spend much of Thursday travelling from Michigan to Vancouver, there is a chance he could play Thursday night.
“He could very easily be in the lineup,” Gilman said.
The Canucks and head coach Alain Vigneault like Pinizzotto’s grit and the fact he has a decent skill set to go along with it. If his stay in Vancouver is going to be a long one, Pinizzotto knows he must bring that physical presence every shift.
“That’s kind of what I do, finish checks, put the odd point up,” Pinizzotto said.
“I just want to help the team win some games. I just see myself being a huge energy guy, who gets some bumps in and gets the team fired up. Everybody kind of feeds off that stuff.”
Pinizzotto, a right-winger, is likely to start on the fourth line and could bump newly acquired Tom Sestito into the press box.
ICE CHIPS: Pinizzotto has four goals, 12 points and 27 penalty minutes in 24 games with the Wolves this season ... He’ll join fellow Rochester Institute of Technology product Chris Tanev in the Vancouver lineup ... Pinizzotto won a pair of Calder Cups while playing for the Hershey Bears.
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