VANCOUVER - In a normal season, if there is such a thing anymore, the Vancouver Canucks would return home from a lengthy road trip and have at least two days before their next game to rest, recover and re-adjust to the Pacific time zone.
In a lockout-shortened season, you can forget about it. The Canucks are back in action Tuesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes to play their seventh game in 12 nights in five different cities and three different time zones.
To their credit, Canuck players weren't using their Sunday meltdown in Motown as an excuse. Nor will they – we think – if things go sideways again versus the 'Yotes.
“The schedule is what it is,” shrugged left winger Mason Raymond, who participated in a yoga session with teammates Monday but not a practise. “We don't control the schedule. It's an abnormal year and you just have to deal with it head on as best you can.
“It was a long road trip the way it worked, starting in Chicago, then flying south, then heading back north and all over. It's a lot of games in a short amount of time and we're right back at it Tuesday. When the days are there to relax and recharge, we get them.”
The Canucks will have a three-day break following the Phoenix game with their next outing not until Saturday against the Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings. However, they can't borrow on that time off. There is no mortgage available in these situations.
Captain Henrik Sedin had no answer for the six goals the Canucks surrendered in the final two periods of Sunday's 8-3 loss to the Red Wings. He agreed his and his mates weren't smart enough but was reluctant to blame it on any kind of fatigue, either mental or physical.
“Tough to say, really tough to say,” Henrik replied. “We weren't there 100 per cent mentally but, again, it shouldn't end up 8-3. Personally, I've felt great so far and I think as a team we've felt good, too. I don't see the schedule, so far, being any tougher than any other year. But maybe the last game of the road trip, I don't think we were 100 per cent focused on the game. That shouldn't happen but that's what happened.”
Over in the Phoenix room, Coyotes captain Shane Doan was uttering a similar refrain. The normally air-tight Phoenix defence squandered leads both Saturday and Sunday in road losses to the Oilers (3-2 in a shootout) and Flames (4-3 in regulation). Phoenix is 8-7-3 in 18 games and sits five points behind the Canucks in the Western Conference standings.
“We've been okay at times and not so okay at times,” Doan said Monday. “Our major downfall has been the inconsistency. We've played moments in each game really well and then we've also been pretty loose and given up some opportunities. As for the schedule, I think that's obviously going to be a battle throughout the whole year.
“The battle of attrition is going to be important. If you have a bad game and want to punish yourselves, then it costs you a couple of more games just trying to recover from that. We're fortunate that we've probably got the best coaches in the league and we rely on their decisions. They do a good job for us.”
With both the Canucks and Coyotes coming off defensive collapses, Doan chuckled when asked if he expected a 0-0 games with zero shots on goal.
“Ha, you never know right now with the way the league is going,” he said. “It's funny. You look at Vancouver and as good as they are offensively, they're still predicated on the fact they play so well in their own zone. They give up so little. At the same time, we're a team that prides itself on being fairly good that way.”
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks didn't make any coaches available to the media Monday so there was no update on the injured (Kevin Bieksa, groin) and the sick (David Booth). However, Booth did skate Monday with Zack Kassian, Cam Barker, Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Manny Malhotra. Goalie coach Rollie Melanson and skills coach Glenn Carnegie ran the workout.
THREE THEMES FOR COYOTES-CANUCKS GAME
ONE – Who's going to clamp down first, the Canucks or the Coyotes? Both teams have been among the NHL's best defensive clubs the last few seasons but both are coming off humiliating losses in which their team defence collapsed. The Canucks, of course, surrendered a ridiculous eight goals Sunday to a Red Wings team that was minus veteran forwards Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm. The Coyotes, meanwhile, allowed the lowly Flames to score twice in the final 1:23 of regulation and fell 4-3. Are we looking at three goals total tonight?
TWO – Will the Canuck penalty killers get it together? After a wretched start to the season, the man-short unit was starting to find some cohesion before Sunday's follies in Motown. The Canucks essentially lost the game in the second period when the Red Wings went 3-for-3 on their power play to turn a 3-2 Vancouver lead into a 5-3 Vancouver deficit. Not good enough. Back to the drawing board, which includes defensive zone draws.
THREE – Does Doan still have it? Coyotes captain Shane Doan, now 36, is in 17th season with the franchise. He has nine points in 18 games, 51 shots on goal and is minus-1 while averaging 17:17 of ice time. He exercised his option Monday not to skate in the Coyotes' optional after the team dropped weekend games in Edmonton and Calgary. Many teams, including the Canucks, were interested in signing Doan last summer before he re-upped with the 'Yotes for another four years.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
DANIEL SEDIN, CANUCKS. After a slow start, Daniel is beginning to climb back into the individual scoring race and was tied with Eric Staal for 15th (19 points). Daniel is coming off a two-goal effort in Detroit and has four multiple-point games in his last eight starts. He's collected 13 points in his last 10 games.
RAFFI TORRES, COYOTES. Since returning from his suspension that carried over from last season, the one-time Canuck has four goals and six points in 10 games and is a plus-3. Like Daniel, he is coming off a two-goal performance in a losing cause. He also appears to have curbed his enthusiasm for the bad penalty and has only five minutes in the sin bin this season.
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