Canucks Game Day: ‘Business as usual’ tough to maintain amid rampant rumours

 

 
 
 
 
Markus Granlund (in blue) practises with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at the University of B.C. for the first time since being traded from the Calgary Flames on Monday. Granlund is destined for the third line tonight when he makes his Canucks debut against the visiting Ottawa Senators.
 

Markus Granlund (in blue) practises with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at the University of B.C. for the first time since being traded from the Calgary Flames on Monday. Granlund is destined for the third line tonight when he makes his Canucks debut against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG

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VANCOUVER — Tonight against the Ottawa Senators, Markus Granlund becomes the 36th player to dress for the Vancouver Canucks this season and the 18th to make his Canuck debut. And all anyone is talking about are the players who might leave Vancouver before the National Hockey League trading deadline passes on Monday.

Besides looming unrestricted free agents Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata, who are expected to be traded, the names of seven other Canucks — Adam Cracknell, Linden Vey, Matt Bartkowski, Yannick Weber, Chris Higgins, Brandon Prust and Ronalds Kenins — were leaked Wednesday from an apparent selling list sent to other teams by Vancouver management.

This came two days after general manager Jim Benning traded prospect Hunter Shinkaruk to the Calgary Flames for Granlund, a forward who will play the wing on Vancouver's third line tonight (7 p.m. Pacific time, Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040).

Vrbata is injured, Weber is a healthy scratch and Prust, Higgins and Kenins are already in the minors. But Hamhuis, Cracknell, Vey and Bartkowski are expected to be in the Canucks' lineup.

If coach Willie Desjardins can get his team focused tonight, he can handle any distraction.

"There's nothing that has happened at this moment, so it's business as usual," Desjardins said. "Guys are here … and while we're here, we're going to play hard.

"I think it's difficult (for them) because you're not only looking at yourself, you're looking at your family. That's totally different once you start bringing family into play. It's a tough time of year. Players' minds, it's hard to focus. But I expect our guys to be focused on the game. Basically, they have to just block it out. Until something has happened, nothing has happened."

Bartkowski joked that the last time TSN tweeted that he was going to be traded, a deal from Boston to Calgary for Jarome Iginla never materialized.

"I take it all with a grain of salt," he said.

Cracknell, who has scored in his last two games and is one of the few Canucks who has exceeded expectations this season, said: "It's all rumours until someone makes it official and signs the papers.

"However it came out or whoever said it, that's part of the business. If my name is out there, it's out there. There's not much I can do about it. I've just got to keep playing. This is where I want to be."

But won't it be awkward playing for a team that may be trying to dump you?

"I think we have a lot of good character guys here," Cracknell said. "You need your teammates to further your career and you need to play with passion. There are teams always watching you. Someone's always watching, whether it's your organization or someone else's. Some guys have been fortunate enough to play here for 14 or 15 years. I've never had that. You play for the guys you're with. That's what's important about this team."

Out with an undisclosed injury, Vrbata was unavailable to the media. But Hamhuis, Benning's most valuable trading chip, spoke to reporters and plans to play tonight.

Hamhuis denied the Canucks have asked him to waive his no-trade clause, although that request is coming if it hasn't already been made.

"It's certainly a distraction out there for our team and for the dressing room," he said. "As much as you try not to let it be, it seeps in. That's where we have to do the best we can as professionals to perform tonight and try to put that aside.

"I don't think you ever want to see your name out on the trade block. I think you always want to feel wanted by the organization you're with. Whether these lists and speculations and rumours are true or not, either way it's hard on guys."

Ten points out in the Western Conference wild-card playoff race and with three teams to pass, the Canucks are hopelessly behind with 23 games to go. The Senators, however, have won four straight games to inch within four points of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

But Ottawa leads the race among Canadian teams — the tallest of the seven dwarves.

imacintyre@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Markus Granlund (in blue) practises with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at the University of B.C. for the first time since being traded from the Calgary Flames on Monday. Granlund is destined for the third line tonight when he makes his Canucks debut against the visiting Ottawa Senators.
 

Markus Granlund (in blue) practises with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at the University of B.C. for the first time since being traded from the Calgary Flames on Monday. Granlund is destined for the third line tonight when he makes his Canucks debut against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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