Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canucks Edge Out Oil At Garage

All the scoring was done in the first half of the game, but the Canucks didn't mind that at all as they skated away with a 2-1 win in their home pre-season debut against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night.

Darcy Hordichuk and Michael Grabner capitalized for Vancouver after Kyle Brodziak opened the scoring for the Oilers. Roberto Luongo registered the win in net as he stopped 13 of 14 Oilers shots. He was replaced after 23+ minutes of work by Curtis Sanford. Dwayne Roloson stopped 29 shots going the distance between the pipes for the visitors.

Second time in as many nights Vancouver put up 30+ shots on net and also the second time in as many games where they played come-from-behind hockey to win. While that might not seem like a big deal in the exhibition season, both aspects have to be impressive to the coaching staff.

Some of the players who certainly deserved mentions on their play on this night included:

Jannik Hansen: Speed and skill were the name of his game and will have to be if he wants to start the season in Vancouver. Formed great chemistry with his linemates both 5-on-5 and on the power play.

Michael Grabner: Could get and paste the same as above. Got into good scoring positions and looks like he's ready to take the next step in his career.

Henrik Sedin: Looked like he had been playing with Hansen and Grabner for weeks. Seemed to be a very calming influence on his wingers who were probably feeling huge pressure going into the game. It may be a few games before he gets reunited with his brother.

Darcy Hordichuk: Not many players will get as excited as Hordichuk to get his first goal in the pre-season! Showed he wants to prove that he can be more than just a tough guy. Nursed a sore thumb picked up in practice and didn't feel the need to fight. Turns out there were a few others for the home team that answered the bell.

Ryan Johnson: Definitely came as advertised. Killer in the face off circle winning 11 of 13. Strong worker bee who's not afraid to lay down in the line of fire. Also showed good vision of the ice and awareness of where his linemates were (Hordichuk & Alex Burrows) when he had the puck in the offensive zone.

Cody Hodgson: Didn't seem to have lots of nervousness in his play, although the butterflies were probably working strong shift-to-shift. Didn't panic when receiving the puck and was even better at dishing it off to either of his wingers Pavol Demitra or Steve Bernier.

Kevin Bieksa: Good to see back on the ice. Without a doubt makes the Canucks tougher to play against in the Vancouver zone. Displayed a strong physical presence (which isn't out of the norm) and didn't show any ill-effects from his leg injury last season.

Yann Sauve: Much like Hodgson, he looked much more comfortable beyond his years. Was shown lots of confidence by the coaches to be thrown into both PP and PK scenarios. Will definitely use this game as a motivator moving forward in the pre-season.

With what's gone on in the last 48 hours, the Canucks brass have some interesting decisions to make on who will dress for their next two games in California on the weekend. There is some real healthy competition taking place for this team in two different areas. Firstly, which of the young guys, if any, will stay with the team to start the season? The likes of Grabner, Hansen, Hodgson and Mason Raymond have not taken any steps backwards since the start of training camp.

Secondly, the more veteran forwards battling to avoid starting the year in Manitoba have made things that much more intriguing. Mike Brown (2 fights), Jason Krog (1g,1a), Kyle Wellwood (1g,1a), and Jeff Cowan (1g) have all proved they earn a few more looks during the exhibition campaign.

Practice days for the players the next few days will be on the agenda before the team takes on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday.

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