Burrows had a plan


What looked like a simple play on Alex Burrows’ part in fact had a lot of thought go into it.


What looked like a simple play on Alex Burrows’ part in fact had a lot of thought go into it.

Burrows skated to the Kings’ blue-line Monday in L.A., put his head down and blasted a slap shot past goalie Jonathan Quick to put the Vancouver Canucks on the scoreboard.

But here’s what was going through Burrows’ mind on the way to scoring his 19th goal of the season.

He received a pass from Daniel Sedin at the Canucks’ blue-line, taking note that Daniel had taken a hit along the boards to make the play, and that Henrik Sedin was far behind after tending to defensive duties.

Heading through the neutral zone, Burrows noted that Kings defencemen Jack Johnson and Denis Gauthier were playing him tight, holding up just inside their blue-line.

So Burrows put his head down and shot, not hoping the puck would go in, but that with the D-men so high he’d be able to beat them to a rebound on the forecheck.

“I didn’t want to turn it over there at the blue-line,” Burrows said. “I didn’t have much support coming behind me, so I just wanted to get the puck on the net . . . go in aggressive on the forecheck because their defence won’t be settled.”

Sometimes players think too much and it usually winds up with cutesy plays that result in turnovers or offsides.

But a few Canucks forwards could use some of Burrows’ savvy. While Burrows has six goals his past eight games, the left-winger on his line has gone seven games without scoring.

Daniel Sedin does have five assists over that span, but the 40-goal pace he was once on is now a distant memory.

“During the season it’s up and down,” said Daniel, who had a glorious chance late Monday only to ring the puck off the post. “Sometimes everything bounces in. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

Canucks coach not happy

Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault grew so dismayed at his penalty-killing Monday that he put out the Sedin twins.

He singled out Ryan Johnson and Taylor Pyatt as culprits he was unhappy with after L.A.’s Jarret Stoll sneaked past each of them to score two power-play goals.

And Tuesday at practice he took a peek at Alex Burrows on the power play.

But as dissatisfied as he is with his special teams — 0-for-4 on the power play, 4-of-6 on the penalty kill Monday — he’s unlikely to make changes by giving more players dual roles.

Ryan Kesler will remain for the most part the only player doing double duty on both special teams because of his speed.

“Obviously our penalty-killing needs to be better, the power play needs to be better,” the coach said. “We know that.

“We’re spending a lot of time on the ice and on video working on it. Hopefully we can get on a roll in both those areas.”

Sundin’s mea culpa

Vancouver Canucks’ Mats Sundin had a spell in January where he was in the penalty box for three game-winning goals by the opposition and that’s where he was again Monday when the L.A. Kings scored the winning goal.

Sundin was called for interference after he charged Kyle Quincey in front of the Kings net.

What Sundin didn’t know was that the Kings defenceman didn’t have the puck when he nailed him in the back.

“I thought he had the puck right in front of him,” Sundin said. “The puck came out from behind the net and it looked like he stopped the puck.”

No Bieksa excuses

Several Vancouver Canucks felt referees Dennis LaRue and Justin St. Pierre were whistle-happy Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, but the questionable calls went both ways.

“We can’t be using officiating as an excuse this late in the season,” said Kevin Bieksa, who was whistled for tripping late in the third period. “We had our opportunities on the power play.

“They converted theirs, we didn’t convert ours, so you can’t blame the game on the referees.”

Scoreboard watch

The Vancouver Canucks are guilty as charged.

They keep track of who’s won and who’s lost in the Western Conference on a nightly basis as much as anybody.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t looking a little bit,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “But when we get up in the morning we focus on our next game.

“I’d say since, oh, mid-January, our focus has really shifted to a narrow approach, a next-game mentality. We’ve had some pretty good success doing that.”

Helminen just glad to be playing hockey

Up with the Carolina Hurricanes for the last four games, centre Dwight Helminen has been used sparingly.

He doesn’t mind. After all, things could have been a lot worse for the prospect in the early hours of Feb. 19 when he was aboard the AHL’s Albany River Rats bus that fish-tailed off the Massachusetts Turnpike.

"It was a little bit of a sinking feeling," he said to the News&Observer. "It was really scary. I was thinking, ’I hope we’re all still in one piece when this is over.’"

The Albany bus ended up halfway in a ditch, on its’ side, exposed to oncoming traffic.

"It was all quiet at first," Helminen said. "People started checking on each other, who’s what, is anybody stuck under the bus. That was our biggest concern but we realized nobody was.

"Then the guys in the front started yelling about getting out because it was sitting in the middle of the road. It was scary."

There were no fatalities, but a number of Helminen’s teammates suffered injuries and were taken to hospital.

"We were all lucky," Helminen said.

Blues playoffs start now

The St. Louis Blues kicked off a four-game, six-day homestand Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. The stretch will likely determine if the Blues make it to the post-season for the first time since 2003-04.

The Blues will face Western Conference heavyweights San Jose on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday, and then Minnesota on Sunday.

"It’s probably the biggest week of the year for us," said Blues centre Andy McDonald to the Belleville News-Democrat on Tuesday. "We’ve got some tough opponents and some guys you have to beat. We’re not fazed by the challenge ahead of us. We know how we have to play and we’re capable of beating these teams."

The remaining schedule includes three games against Columbus and two each against Dallas, Detroit and Vancouver.

The big and small of it

Kris Russell one of the NHL’s smaller defencemen, listed at five-foot-10 was up against Boston Bruins giant Zdeno Chara, who stands six-foot-nine, Tuesday night.

The Columbus Blue Jackets blue-liner said the size difference was apparent when the two teams met last season.

“The next day they ran a picture of us standing side by side,” Russell told the Columbus Dispatch with a grin on his face. “I mean it wasn’t funny. He is huge. It was really embarrassing.”

Roberts was thorn in Senators’ side

Veteran forward Gary Roberts waved goodbye to the NHL on Monday, but chances are the Ottawa Senators weren’t shedding too many tears.

Roberts was a constant thorn in the Senators’ side and a seemingly never-ending reminder of their four playoff failures against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Roberts was with the Maple Leafs for two of those crushing defeats. His signature series against the Senators came in 2002, when he scored five goals, including a double-overtime game-winner, and five assists for the injury depleted Maple Leafs, who found a way to win in seven despite playing without Mats Sundin, among others.

The Senators even struck out when they tried desperately to get him to join them at the trade deadline during 2007-08. The final Roberts dagger against the Senators came last spring, when he scored twice in the first game of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sweep of the Senators, becoming the oldest player in history to score twice in a playoff game.

Tough guy on target

Chris Neil, recovering from a lacerated right calf, could return as early as Thursday against the Boston Bruins for the Ottawa Senators, but most likely won’t until Saturday afternoon’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It wouldn’t be fair to put him in a game with one full practice,” head coach Cory Clouston said.

The Senators will likely without defenceman Filip Kuba (flu) for Wednesday’s home game against Tampa. Winger Dany Heatley and centre Mike Fisher were both given Tuesday off to rest, but will play Wednesday.

Ice chips

The Detroit Red Wings have placed defenceman Andreas Lilja on the long-term injury list with post-concussion syndrome. . . . Marian Gaborik is expected to travel with the Minnesota Wild to Denver this week, but the injured forward is not expected to play against the Avalanche on Thursday. Gaborik hasn’t played since Dec. 23 because of a hip injury. . . . The Columbus Blue Jackets will honour Ken Hitchcock prior to Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh for becoming the 13th coach in NHL history to record 500 wins. . . . Los Angeles Kings defenceman Sean O’Donnell is scheduled to play in his 1,000th career NHL game this Saturday in San Jose. . . . The Detroit Red Wings donated one of their 2008 Stanley Cup championship rings to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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