New Canucks to line up much like old Canucks: Alain Vigneault (with video)
Coach plans to 'start with combinations that have worked in the past'
Vancouver Canucks Alex Burrows, David Booth and Daniel Sedin (left to right) are all ears during an informal practice at UBC in Vancouver on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. While Burrows will safely skate in his accustomed spot (for now) with the Sedin twins, the heat figures to be on Booth to rediscover his scoring touch on the team's second line in this coming shortened 2012-13 NHL season.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
VANCOUVER — Head coach Alain Vigneault will be wearing sweats, not a white lab coat, when the Vancouver Canucks gather Sunday for what will be a quick training camp.
There doesn't figure to be much in the way of experimentation going on.
Vigneault, in his first meeting with reporters since the NHL lockout settled, said Friday he will be relying on tried and tested combinations at camp.
So that suggestion that rookie Zack Kassian might skate with Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the first line? Not going to happen.
"With the limited amount of time that we have it's probably a safe bet to say we are going to start with combinations, whether it be defensive pairings or forwards, that have worked in the past," Vigneault said.
"And then if it doesn't as we move forward we will make the adjustments that we need to make."
There are some key lineup questions that will have to be sorted out at camp, without the benefit of pre-season games. With Ryan Kesler still not fully recovered from off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries, there's a hole to fill at second-line centre.
"I would say right now that Andrew (Ebbett) and Jordan Schroeder are going to get a look at that position," Vigneault said.
He also hinted that whoever wins that job will likely be skating between Mason Raymond and David Booth, two players who need to bounce back after disappointing seasons last year.
"Probably in this circumstance we have to go with things that have worked in the past," Vigneault said. "(Raymond) is a guy who has proven in the past that he can score. David Booth is a guy who has proven in the past he can score — at the NHL level.
"They are going to get an opportunity and if they don't do it or don't do it quickly enough we'll have some decisions to make. And you guys all know how quick I am on the trigger. Don't worry about that."
Vigneault said he likes the combination of Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen together, so look for them to patrol the wings of the third line between either Maxim Lapierre or Manny Malhotra.
There will also be a battle for the wing spots on the fourth line featuring Kassian, Dale Weise and Aaron Volpatti.
The main battle on defence figures to be for the No. 8 depth spot. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis are almost certain to start the season together, as are newcomer Jason Garrison and Alex Edler. The third pairing is expected to feature Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev with Andrew Alberts the No. 7 man.
Rookie Kevin Connauton has been invited to camp and will battle for the No. 8 spot with, among others, Cam Barker, the former third overall draft pick who is attending camp on a tryout.
Of course, if the Canucks pull off a trade for goalie Roberto Luongo and receive some key assets in return, everything could change.
Vigneault reiterated that he has no problems having both Luongo and Cory Schneider at camp.
"Right now, I have two top-end goaltenders," he said. "I feel very fortunate, we probably have the best duo in the NHL and I think in the past I have shown how to use both goaltenders for the benefit of the team. And that is what I will continue to do as we move forward."
Vigneault acknowledged that young players like Schroeder face a challenge to try to win a job at a training camp that will not include any pre-season games.
"This is so different than in the past and their window to show what they can do is so much different than in the past," Vigneault said.
It's the uncertainty of what lies ahead that most concerns Vigneault.
"None of us have been through a five- or six-day training camp without any exhibition games," he said. "In 1994-95 Bones (associate coach Rick Bowness) and I were in Ottawa, but we had a training camp."
Vigneault said he has spent the past few months trying to prepare for the special challenges a shortened season will present.
"I did a lot of homework on this, whether it be reading different articles from the NBA what they went through last year and I did talk to some coaches that went through it in 1994-95 and I have got different theories on what we need to do here moving forward.
"But until I know exactly what we can and cannot do, which I don't know yet, I can't decide which one I can implement."
Until he sees the new CBA, Vigneault doesn't know exactly how much time he is going to have to work on the ice with his players. He'd like to have as much scrimmaging as possible at camp, to try and make up for the lack of a pre-season schedule.
There are already five players — Kassian, Ebbett, Connauton, Tanev and Schroeder — who have spent the season with the AHL's Chicago Wolves and have been invited to camp. And Vigneault said the Canucks hope to bring in six or seven more players from Chicago after the Wolves complete their two-game set with the Abbotsford Heat this weekend.
"I think we are basically going into uncharted waters," Vigneault said. "We really don't know, we have expectations that our guys are going to react to this the right way, but with a five or six-day training camp we don't really know what we are going to get.
"So we sort of laid out different scenarios and we will see what happens here moving forward. Obviously in our case we've got a veteran group and have a lot of confidence in our players and hopefully starting on Sunday we'll be good to go."
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