NHL Notebook: Wellwood clears waivers


Before leaving the Vancouver Canucks, Kyle Wellwood was thoughtful and refreshingly honest.


Wellwood clears waivers, assigned to Manitoba

Before leaving the Vancouver Canucks, Kyle Wellwood was thoughtful and refreshingly honest.

Maligned this pre-season for his struggles with conditioning, Wellwood admitted that during his time with Vancouver he never looked ready to be a top-six forward.

“In my career so far, I’ve had a couple months in the NHL where I was a good player,” said Wellwood, who cleared waivers Saturday and was assigned to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba. “That carried me through the injuries and gave me another shot in Vancouver. I didn’t feel that comfortable on the ice this year.

“I played well in exhibition, but I didn’t feel like it was obvious I was a top-six player and that has to do with my fitness, my confidence and just getting into the rhythm of things. I just need some more seasoning and more training. Hopefully, I’ll end up looking like a good player again and I’ll be able to play in this league.”

Wellwood will remain with Manitoba until Canucks general manager Mike Gillis decides what to do with him. He may not play for the Moose because there are now eight players there who qualify as “veterans” (three more than can play in any one AHL game). If not Manitoba, most believe the Canucks will try to find a spot for him elsewhere in the minors, like they did with Jeff Cowan, who was assigned to Peoria in the AHL.

A scenario that could be more appealing to both sides would see him play in Europe, where he can get the games he needs to get in shape, and the Canucks can get compensated for his $998,000 US salary without taking a cap hit.

“It’s a possibility, but we haven’t yet fully looked into it,” Gillis said. “We would have to make an arrangement with a European team regarding financial arrangements.”

Canucks’ top line has room for improvement

They have 11 points, and have combined for a plus-9 rating in five games, but that’s not enough for the Sedin twins to avoid criticism.

Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault pointed out their “average” play after a 5-2 loss in Buffalo on Friday, a game in which the twins were split up in the third period and had their ice time slashed (Daniel’s was 17:12, Henrik’s 16:40) while Taylor Pyatt’s was increased (to 19:39).

“They’re excellent players,” Vigneault said of the twins. “The last couple of games have been maybe average for the standards we are used to in the past.”

The twins have been working in new linemate Steve Bernier, who most people in Vancouver assumed would be an ideal fit. But Bernier is still trying to figure out where to play on the ice. Is he supposed to be in front of the net, or along the boards, helping out with the cycle?

He admitted the club’s No. 1 line has experienced some growing pains, although all three players have been productive.

“We’re trying, and the one thing I have to get used to is playing against the other team’s best defensive players every night,” Bernier said. “My job is to be in front of the net screening the goalie, but I also need to be in on the cycle. It’s only been five games and I think we can be a lot better.”

Quenneville trades in laid-back lifestyle for coaching

Joel Quenneville really liked the idea of less pressure and concentrating on players instead of systems while watching games as a scout in the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

In fact he said so four times in the space of a 10-minute conversation.

“I had some time planned with the family, my ski pass for the winter ordered and we had a little trip to Hawaii planned next week, but that all changed,” said Quenneville of his life in Denver just before his Saturday debut as the coach of Blackhawks.

Quenneville, who replaced Denis Savard behind the ’Hawks bench, was gonged as coach of the Colorado Avalanche last season after its departure from the playoffs at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals.

Now he faces the high expectations of the renewed interest in Chicago where this young team, led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, is expected to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years. And given the youth it’s no sure thing in the tough west.

“You know all the teams have the same feeling at the beginning of the year if you didn’t make the playoffs last year and the expectations are high,” said Quenneville. “We’re one of those teams. It’s great for hockey that the excitement in the game is back in Chicago. There’s a buzz in the town and it’s fun to be part of it.”  

Bieksa relieved knee injury isn’t serious

When his knee buckled in a collision with Wayne Primeau last week, four months of rehab flashed before Kevin Bieksa’s eyes.

In that split second, he couldn’t help but think of last year and his lacerated calf, a horrific injury that tested the Vancouver Canucks defenceman’s resiliency, psyche and spirit.

Could it happen again? So soon?

“Absolutely, I thought about that,” said Bieksa, who missed four months last season.

“Mentally, it was tough last year and I didn’t want to go through that again. It was such a relief to find out it was going to be a short-term injury.”

Bieksa is set to return to the lineup Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks and it couldn’t come soon enough for the Canucks, who desperately need him, notably on special teams.

Without Bieksa, the Canucks have killed only eight of their past 14 penalties, giving up six power-play goals in three games.

Without him, the Canucks have been a woeful 1-for-11 on the power play in three games.

“I am so happy to be back,” said Bieksa, who started skating on his own in Vancouver on Wednesday before re-joining his teammates in Buffalo on Friday.

“I feel good right now. I was really excited when I started skating again. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I didn’t want to get off the ice. I just wanted to keep skating around.”


The Colorado Avalanche reassigned right-winger Scott Parker to the club’s AHL affiliate in Cleveland. . . . The St. Louis Blues recalled goaltender Marek Schwarz from the Peoria Rivermen (AHL). Schwarz, 22, has appeared in one game for the Rivermen this season, posting a 0-1-0 record along with a .839 goals against average.


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