Matthias picks fine time to become centre of attention for Canucks

 

 
 
 
 
Shawn Matthias of the Vancouver Canucks battles Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the puck Thursday.
 

Shawn Matthias of the Vancouver Canucks battles Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the puck Thursday.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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EDMONTON — While the Vancouver Canucks lost one centre here Thursday, they appeared to restore another.

Shawn Matthias, who had played two previous pre-season contests as a winger, returned to his natural centre position and had easily his most noticeable game as the Canucks beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1.

Matthias’s impressive performance coincided with an apparent shoulder injury to Canuck rookie Bo Horvat, who had appeared likely to make the National Hockey League team as a centre. And while Vancouver still has plenty of centres, coach Willie Desjardins conceded the 6-4 Matthias possesses size the team would like down the middle.

“I think he did play better tonight, for sure,” Desjardins said. “That was good to see. Wherever we spot you in, you have to play well. But just for Matthias, I thought he played well tonight. I thought he was better.”

Does this mean he’s a centre again, not a winger?

“I think it depends on what the team needs and where we’re at,” Desjardins said. “You always like big centre-icemen. That’s something every coach wants to have. He played well there tonight.”

Matthias logged 15:40 of ice time and registered three shots. And even without his first-period fight with Oiler Will Acton, Matthias’s physical presence was evident.

None of the Canucks other centres — Henrik Sedin, Nick Bonino, Linden Vey and Brad Richardson — weighs more than 190 pounds. Matthias is listed at 216 pounds.

“Everyone has got to be urgent,” Matthias said when asked about his intensity on Thursday.

“If we want to have a good start to the season we’ve got to finish these last couple of pre-season games playing like it’s the start of the season. Today we battled hard and took a big step closer to being ready for the start.”

There has been a question since training camp began about where — or even if — Matthias would fit in the lineup if he isn’t one of the team’s four centres.

“I’ve played centre my whole life,” the 26-year-old said. “Of course, it feels more comfortable for me. It’s what I’ve always played and it comes naturally to me. But a lot of guys had to play different positions tonight with all the penalties. Everyone stepped up.”

Vey started as a winger on Matthias’s line, but took a lot of shifts at centre after Horvat left the game in the second minute.

Richardson has been out with an injury but is expected to play in the Canucks’ final pre-season game on Saturday. Sedin was rested Thursday but will play Saturday.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Shawn Matthias of the Vancouver Canucks battles Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the puck Thursday.
 

Shawn Matthias of the Vancouver Canucks battles Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the puck Thursday.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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