Vancouver Canucks prepare for their own amazing race (with video)
Staying healthy key to succeeding in condensed 48-game season, says Henrik Sedin
Vancouver Canucks Maxim Lapierre [left], Henrik Sedin and Dan Hamhuis [right] share a laugh as Daniel Sedin skates away during an informal skate of several Canucks players and UBC Thunderbirds at the Vancouver Universities arena on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. A tentative agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association was announced early Sunday.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER — On your mark, get set, go! OK, that won’t happen for about another 12 days, but the Vancouver Canucks were already talking Monday about the mad dash that a 48-game season figures to be when the puck is finally dropped on the 2012-13 NHL campaign.
“It’s going to be a sprint, you’ve got to get off to a good start,” said team captain Henrik Sedin. “It’s going to be a playoff race from Game 1 and that’s the way it should be.”
Eternal optimist Kevin Bieksa has already found a silver lining in the shortened season, which is expected to begin on Jan. 19.
“It changes our October start and having to read all the articles about us not being a good team out of the gate, so we can put that behind us fortunately,” Bieksa said with a smile.
But on a more serious note, the Canuck defenceman and others acknowledged that a 48-game season will be different and they don’t quite know what to expect.
“It is going to be a unique situation, we have never been a part of this so we will have to see,” Bieksa said. “There’s no time for a slow start, that could cost you a playoff start right there. Everybody’s going to have to come out of the gates ready to go and we’ll see how it goes. It should be fun.”
“It’s almost like you are gearing up for the playoffs,” added winger Chris Higgins. “It’s not going to have that feel, but halfway through the year you are already starting to think that way and we are halfway through the year, so you want to get as many points as you can while you are starting to feel a little good on the ice. That is going to be the main challenge.”
Potential injuries are also a concern. Some of those who played in the 48-game 1994-95 season have cautioned that a condensed schedule can be tough on players. Former Canuck forward Cliff Ronning on Sunday talked about how he battled a groin strain through part of that season.
Henrik Sedin said any injuries figure to be magnified by the brevity of the season.
“Over an 82-game season players can miss 15 or 20 games, but when you are playing only 48 games and get some key injuries that’s going to be tough to go through.”
The Canucks had fewer players than most teams head to Europe to play overseas. Some have suggested that could put them at a disadvantage in the early going, but Henrik Sedin doesn’t buy it.
“A lot of guys went over the past couple of weeks and played nine or 10 games and they have to fly back here,” he said. “It’s still two weeks now before the season starts. The game shape you were in, you are going to lose that pretty fast. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”
Both Henrik and Bieksa said they are in as good or better shape than they would be before the start of a normal training camp in mid-September.
A small group of Canucks, including both Sedins, Bieksa, Manny Malhotra, Dan Hamhuis and Higgins, have been skating regularly at UBC throughout the lockout.
“Personally, I think I am in a little bit better skating shape than I (normally) would be,” Bieksa said. “I have been skating the last four months, we all have, four times a week and I don’t do that in the summer, so I feel I am as ready, if not more prepared, than I would be coming to (a regular) camp.”
It appears the NHL, perhaps realizing what kind of reaction they’d get from fans, is not going to permit any pre-season games. Again, Bieksa doesn’t see that as a problem.
“That’s fine,” he said. “Last year the veteran guys played only two games. Everybody is in the same position so there’s no disadvantage there. And if you asked me I’d prefer to just jump into it and play anyways.”
Nine Canucks — others skating included Maxim Lapierre, Jason Garrison and Alex Edler — spent about an hour scrimmaging with some of the UBC Thunderbirds on Monday.
“There’s a little extra step today, a little extra jump by the guys,” Bieksa said.
“It’s exciting, guys are kind of giddy. It’s the start of a new season, so it’s definitely been a little different skate out here than most days.”
The Canucks will skate two or three more times this week at UBC and their numbers should continue to swell as they are joined by the players who headed overseas like Jannik Hansen, Dale Weise, Cory Schneider and Mason Raymond.
Training camp is not expected to begin any earlier than this weekend and perhaps not until next Monday.
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