Canucks Report: Hamhuis vs. Sedins

It will be a quarterfinal matchup with a little Canucks flavour in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday. Dan Hamhuis and Canada take on Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler and Team Sweden for the right to advance to the semifinals at the 2013 IIHF World Championships.

The line-ups for both teams have been bolstered since the two teams met in the preliminary round back on May 9 when Mike Smith made 33 saves in Canada’s 3-0 win. None of the Canucks were in the line-up for that game.

Daniel, Henrik and Edler made their tournament debuts on Tuesday in a 4-2 win against Canucks prospect Nicklas Jensen and Denmark.

The Sedins were on a line with Dallas Stars sniper Loui Eriksson and the trio was dominant throughout the game. Daniel and Henrik both picked up a goal and an assist, while Edler finished with one helper, as Sweden scored three times in the third period to seal the victory.

All three Canucks players played over 23 minutes as Edler led the way with 23:43 of ice-time, while Henrik played 23:20 and Daniel had 23:04. Daniel also had a game-high seven shots on goal, while Edler finished with four and Henrik had three.

Sweden finished the round-robin in third place in Group S with a record of 5-0-0-2.

On Monday, Hamhuis was sensational again for Canada in a 4-3 overtime win over Slovenia. The Canucks blueliner sprung Steve Stamkos in on a breakaway for the game-winner 2:36 into the extra frame with a lob pass from his own goal line that found the Tampa Bay Lightning sniper all the way at the far blue line. The native of Smithers, B.C., played 20:53 in the game and finished plus-two.

Through two games, Hamhuis has posted one assist and is plus-two while averaging 23:45 in ice time per game. Canada finished in second place in Group S with 18 points (5-1-1-0), two points behind first-place Switzerland (6-1-0-0).

As for Jensen, his tournament has come to an end after Denmark failed to reach the quarterfinals.

After scoring in his first game with Denmark on Saturday, Jensen was back at it again on Monday in a 3-2 win over Belarus. The Canucks 2011 first-rounder scored his second goal in as many games and had a whopping nine shots on goal in 20:14 of ice time.

Jensen was held off the scoreboard on Tuesday in the 3-2 loss to Sweden. The Danes finished sixth in Group S with a record of 1-1-1-4, good for six points.

-Tyson Giuriato

Canucks Report: On the world’s stage

Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Nicklas Jensen are all in Stockholm, Sweden, representing their countries at the 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championship.

After a long day of travel Saturday, Hamhuis found himself in the line-up for Canada against the Czech Republic on Sunday. Although he admitted he was a bit jet-lagged, Hamhuis was noticeably one of, if not the best, Canadian defenseman on the ice. The former WHL Player of the Year played an effective game in all situations and was counted on to shut the door in the final minute of play with the Czechs trying to even the score.

Jeff Skinner gave Canada a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, which proved to be the game-winner. Canada, which improved to 5-0-1, clinched a berth into the quarterfinals and will close out the round-robin portion of the event against Slovenia on Monday.

Hamhuis has now suited up for Canada at the World Championships a total of five times (06, 07, 08, 09, and 13). The Smithers, BC, native won the gold medal in 2007 and has twice won the silver medal (08, 09). In 37 career World Championship games, the 6-foot-1 defenseman has posted 14 points (5-9-14) and is a plus-20. Hamhuis also suited up for Canada at the 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championships, where he won a bronze (2001) medal and silver (2002) medal.

The Sedins and Edler will make their 2013 World Championship debuts Tuesday against Jensen and his Denmark squad. Sweden is currently third in the Stockholm group with a record of 4-2-0, which has it behind Switzerland (5-0-0) and Canada (5-0-1).

This marks the Sedins fifth appearance at the World Championships, where they have won the bronze medal twice (1999, 2001). Daniel has posted 17 points (8-9-17) in 28 career games at the Worlds, while brother Henrik has 12 points (5-7-12) in 33 career games.

On top of their five World Championship appearances, the Sedins also played for Sweden at the World Juniors three times and twice at the Olympic Games, winning the gold medal in 2006.

As for Edler, this will be his second appearance at the World Championships, he posted three points (1-2-3) and 12 penalty-minutes in eight games back in 2008. The 6-foot-4 defenseman also played for Sweden at the 2006 World Juniors.

On Saturday, Jensen scored Denmarks lone-goal in a 4-1 loss to Switzerland. The Canucks first-round pick in 2011 put Denmark on the board with an even-strength goal 13:54 into the middle stanza to make it 2-1 for the Swiss. Jensen finished with a team-high four shots on goal and was plus-one in 16:25 of ice-time.

Jensen may only have two more opportunities to play for his country at this year’s event (a game against Belarus on Monday and a game against Sweden on Tuesday) as Denmark will need to win their remaining games in regulation, and need help from other teams, in order to advance to the quarterfinals.

This marks the first time Jensen has suited up in the World Championships, he has previously suited up for Denmark at the Under-18 and Under-20s, while earlier this year suited up in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Jensen posted 16 points (13-3-16) in 16 career Under-18 games; he also registered 16 points (7-9-16) in 16 career Under-20 games.

-Tyson Giuriato

Day 7 - In the moment

It’s déjà vu all over again – this time, hopefully, with a different result.

With the Vancouver Canucks trailing the San Jose Sharks 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal, they’ll turn to Cory Schneider Sunday night in net for Game 3.

This is the same situation Schneider was faced with last post-season when the Canucks trailed the LA Kings 2-0; looking to change things up headed into Game 3 in Los Angeles they turned to Schneider and although Vancouver lost 1-0, the netminder was brilliant finishing with 19 saves.

He’s ready to repeat that performance and give the Canucks the win they need to keep this series alive.

“I look at it as an opportunity to play in the playoffs and contribute to the team,” said Schneider, declaring himself 100 per cent ready to play. “This time of year you always want to do something to help your team out, so I’m just hoping I can come in and make a positive difference.”

Walking through the airport Saturday morning Schneider told me he was really hoping to get the start in San Jose because of how amazing the HP Pavilion is to play in.

He got his wish – coach Alain Vigneault said he Schneider would have started the series for that matter had he been ready to play – and silencing the Shark Tank is up next for the Canucks.

“We’re pretty familiar with everyone at this point and it’s a fun building to play in,” said Schneider. “It gets loud, it gets rocking, it’s a fun, tough environment to play in, especially when they get going. No pun intended, but it seems they can really swarm when they get some momentum and get the crowd behind them.

“It’s up to us to not allow them to spend too much time in our end and we need to stay out of the box, they feed a lot off their power play.”

GOALS ARE THE GOAL

The Canucks have scored only three goals in two games and while that was nearly enough to split the series, the Canucks face an uphill battle down 2-0 and scoring early and often will make all the difference.

“The stats are all against us, not a lot of teams come back after losing the first two at home and these guys lost only two or three times here in the regular season,” said Chris Higgins, who backed Roberto Luongo’s play, yet added the change to Schneider could be a good thing. “But it’s a fun building to play in, one of my favourites, so it should be pretty entertaining.

“Either way I hope playing on the road will settle us down a little bit, you know they’re going to come out hard in their first 10 minutes, it’s always a fast paced game on their first couple shifts, so we’ll be ready for that.”

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

Daniel Sedin was asked how patient the Canucks will need to be Sunday night if things don’t go their way early on.

His response sums up the team’s mentality heading into Game 3.

“That’s what good teams do, believe in what you do and do those things. We can’t start changing things, if you do that, you’re going to lose.

“We realize what a win could do tonight and we’re going to do whatever we can to get that win. That’s why it’s so fun being in the playoffs because things can change so quickly.”

Is it fun right now, Daniel?

“Of course it is, if you don’t think this is fun, you should probably quit. We’re up for the challenge and we’re going to do our best to build off Game 2.”

-Derek Jory

Day 6 - Shifting focus

The Vancouver Canucks awoke Saturday morning with a bitter taste in their mouths following a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks Friday night.

After a well-played game by the home team, who led 2-1 with less than a minute to play in regulation, the Canucks gave up a late goal and Raffi Torres had the game-winner to put the Sharks up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

So, what now?

“I think you wake up today and you look forward to tomorrow,” said Henrik Sedin, one of four players to address the media at the airport before the Canucks boarded for San Jose.

“We can’t look at this as winning four straight, it’s about tomorrow, the first five minutes, take care of that and then go from there.”

What Henrik is essentially saying is that it’s all about baby steps.

“We’ve got to go in there and play with some confidence and knowing that if we play like we did yesterday, we have a good shot at winning,” said captain Sedin, who took the loss in Game 2 especially hard.

“It was one of the toughest losses in a while. We played a great game, they scored late and then in overtime and being down 2-0 is a lot tougher than being tied 1-1.”

As Thomas Drance pointed out in his Numbers Game feature today, the Canucks will head into Game 3 looking to become just the nineteenth team in NHL history to come back in a series in which they lost their first two contests at home.

For Vancouver to storm back, it needs goal production from its best goal scorers, the Sedins.

“We’ve got to hit the back of the net that’s the only answer I can give you,” said Henrik, in response to what he, Daniel and linemate Alex Burrows can do better in Game 3. “You can create chances, you can do whatever you want, if you don’t score, you’re not going to win.

“We should have had a few goals, that’s what we think about today. We had the effort, we had the chances, hit some skates and Niemi made some great saves. Same for us as the rest of the team, we have to go in there tomorrow and play the same way.

Off to San Jose we go.

“It’s tough being down 2-0, but we’re going into San Jose with no pressure, it’s a must-win game and no one is believing in us except for us. That’s the way we’ve got to look at it.”

-Derek Jory

Day 5 - Time to get dirty

We know who will be in goal for Vancouver, who will be scoring the goals for the Canucks remains to be seen.

The Canucks did not hold morning skate Friday; four scratched players and all three goaltenders (Luongo, Schneider and Cannata) were the only ones to hit the ice.

Luongo will start in net for the Canucks Friday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal and there’s still no word on status of Cory Schneider, although him skating is definitely a positive.

Coach Alain Vigneault said Schneider remains day-to-day and he’s not sure if the netminder will travel with the team to San Jose Saturday or not.

Vancouver hopes to be traveling to San Jose with this series even at 1-1 and producing offensively is the key to turning this series around.

“You put yourself in a big hole if you lose two in a row and I don’t like using must-win, but it’s a very important game for us, I can’t stress that enough,” said Kevin Bieksa, one of five players who addressed the media Friday morning.

Although the Canucks generated 30 shots in Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Sharks, Bieksa reiterated what many players have said since, that 100 shots wouldn’t have been enough in Game 1 because of the types of shots Vancouver produced.

It’s time to forget style points and get dirty.

“I don’t think we generated enough Grade-A good chances, we had some shots on net, but I’m talking about the shots with traffic in front and rebounds, we didn’t do quit enough of that,” he said.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more of us going to the net a little bit harder; when you have a guy standing in front of the net, it allows you to shoot from anywhere on the ice and it be a dangerous shot. That’s one of the secrets to playoff hockey is traffic.”

It’s been well documented the Canucks have dropped five consecutive games at Rogers Arena dating back to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and over that stretch Vancouver has only scored six goals.

A stat more in the Canucks favour is as follows: the team that has won Game 2 of a best-of-seven NHL playoff series, regardless of the result of Game 1, has gone on to win the series 424 out of 592 times (.716) in league history.

Win Game 2 and the Canucks are back on track.

No updates on the Canucks lines, check Canucks.com at game time for an update line-up.

-Derek Jory

Day 4 - Luongo starts Game 2

Roberto Luongo will once again start in net for the Vancouver Canucks come Friday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal.

Luongo revealed he will start his fourth consecutive game in relief of Cory Schneider, who did not even practice with the Canucks on Thursday. Joe Cannata was back on the ice and he figures to draw back-up duty once again.

Coach Alain Vigneault had no real update on Schneider, reiterating that the 27-year-old, who had practiced four straight days, is still “day-to-day.”

Luongo, who recorded 25 saves in Game 1, is confident he can repeat his stellar performance from Wednesday, which included 15 first period saves, eight on the power play.

Vancouver didn’t get the win, so the effort needs to be better come Friday, according to Luongo.

”We want to be a bit more solid on our forecheck and break the puck out cleaner, whether that exchange is with myself and a D-man or D-man with forwards,” said Luongo. “Communication is key, especially in situations like that and we just need to sharpen up in general, have that little extra edge and we’re good to go.”

KESLER IS GOOD – REALLY GOOD

Despite showing a few signs that he’s playing at less than 100 per cent, Ryan Kesler said Thursday that he not only feels goods, but really good.

”I was healthy enough to play and I gave it my all out there,” he said of his effort in Game 1.

Kesler believes the biggest positives from Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Sharks were Vancouver’s forecheck and the play of the bottom two lines.

Not surprisingly the Canucks skated in new lines Thursday, with Kesler on the wing with Derek Roy at centre and Chris Higgins the other wing man. Mason Raymond, Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen were the third trio, while Dale Weise, Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian made up the fourth line. The defence remained the same.

“I think we all know that changes day-to-day,” said Kesler of his new linemates. “I’ll play wherever they put me. My job is to help the team win and I’ll play wherever they want me.”

Regardless of who plays where, the Canucks know they need to get dirty to get goals.

“We’ve got to have that shooting mentality. We can’t look for that extra pass, we’ve got to jam the net, jam pucks in there, you saw the way we scored our goal, you saw the way they scored their goals. It’s battles in front of the net and they’re all dirty, greasy goals and it’ll be more of that tomorrow.”

-Derek Jory

Day 3 - Luongo starts

Roberto Luongo will begin the playoffs as the Vancouver Canucks goaltender as Cory Schneider remains day-to-day with a body injury.

Luongo confirmed after morning skate he will start his 62nd career post-season game for the Canucks and he’s excited for the challenge.

“Obviously the decision was made that maybe it would be best to rest him a couple more days,” said Luongo, encircled by media. “For me it’s an opportunity and I’m excited to be playing playoff hockey again.”

Coach Alain Vigneault said that even if Luongo weren’t available to play tonight, Schneider still would not be able to play. His injury has not worsened, he’s just not back to full health yet and the Canucks are not rushing his return.

Vigneault said his team is comfortable with Luongo backstopping them in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal tonight against the San Jose Sharks, and rightfully so.

“I don’t think for our group having Roberto in goal is a concern – he’s a pretty good goalie. He’s been through a lot of battles, he’s played some real solid hockey for us and tonight he’s playing and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the opportunity.”

Joe Cannata will backup Luongo tonight. A week ago Cannata was not expecting that duty and Luongo admitted he wasn’t expecting this start, either.

“Things happen. You try to figure out why, sometimes you don’t understand them, but at the end of the day we are all playing hockey and playing in the NHL and I’m excited about the opportunity to be playing in a playoff game with this team and hopefully get a win and move on.”

No more questions, comments or concern over the 7-2 loss in Edmonton last Saturday, Luongo has moved on. It’s the playoffs; the lockout, pre-season and the regular season are in the rearview mirror.

BEASTMODE

Ryan Kesler was the only player absent from Canucks morning skate. Vigneault said it was an optional skate, so participating or not was Kesler’s call, although it seems the forward was tied up this morning.

“He’s in the back, we’ve got him locked up in the back, we’re feeding him raw meat,” joked Vigneault. “The beast will be ready tonight.”

- Derek Jory

Day 2 - Schneider practices - again

No news appears to be good news for Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider.

For the second day in a row Schneider participated in a full Vancouver practice and afterwards he said he didn’t have an update on whether he will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, but if it were up to him, he’ll be between the pipes.

“I felt okay again,” said Schneider. “I got through another practice, so I’ll talk to coach and the trainer and come up with a decision about this.

“I’d love to play, no matter what, I’ll probably tell coach that I want to play and then it’s up to them to decide if that’s the best course of action.”

We’re still not sure exactly the source of Schneider’s lower body injury and he admitted to being off about it too with this being the first injury of his career. Not since he was a freshman in college had Schneider missed a practice for anything other than illness.

He said he finally feels like he’s back in the swing of things.

His timing is impeccable.

“I’ve felt pretty good today, on the ice I didn’t seem to have any limitations doing the drills, so again I can tell coach what I want to tell him, but it’s up to the coaching staff.”

While Schneider said he’d prefer to know Tuesday night who will start for the Canucks on Wednesday, coach Alain Vigneault told the media it could come down to being a game-time decision.

Both Schneider and Roberto Luongo are preparing as if they’re getting the call, so either way, the Canucks will be backed by a proven performer.

-Derek Jory

Day 1 - Schneider practices

By Derek Jory

The matchup has been set, but Vancouver’s starting goaltender for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarter-Final remains in question.

The Canucks practiced at Rogers Arena Monday and with the exception of Chris Tanev (who is in a walking boot and remains day-to-day), everyone participated, including goaltender Cory Schneider.

Schneider has missed the last two games with an undisclosed lower body injury and said after practice he is also day-to-day, but felt it was an encouraging sign that he was able to finish practice.

“Whenever you can do an hour-long practice, that’s a good sign,” said Schneider. “So we’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow.”

Schneider will practice again Tuesday and will be revaluated after and that will likely be the process as well on Wednesday, when coach Alain Vigneault said he’ll make the call as to who will start between the pipes for Game 1.

“I’d love to play, it’s the playoffs and I’ve felt good about how I’ve been playing lately,” added Schneider. “This is when the fun part of the year starts, I’d love to play and if we feel I’m healthy enough to play, I will. We’ll see how it is tomorrow; we’ll see how I’m doing and go from there.”

Roberto Luongo will start for the Canucks if Schneider is unable to play and Luongo is preparing as if he’ll get the call.

Monday was the first time reporters had heard from Luongo since Saturday night when he allowed five third period goals en route to a 7-2 Canucks loss to the Oilers. He’s brushed that off and apologized for not discussing it post-game; Luongo was frustrated and embarrassed and didn’t want to say something he’d regret.

He’s moved on, the second season is here and Luongo is ready to rock.

“Can’t change what happened in the past and you can’t look too far ahead, you really want to stay in the moment, especially in the playoffs where every shift is critical,” said Luongo. “You don’t want to be too emotional about anything, you want to be even keel about everything.”

FRESH JUICE

Kevin Bieksa returned to Vancouver’s line-up against the Oilers Saturday night and he proclaimed himself injury free Monday; he’s back to himself and does not believe he’ll have to take any extra precautions during the post-season.

“I’m good to go. My health issues are behind me and I’m ready for Game 1,” said Bieksa, who joked that a couple of minuses was all he got from Saturday night’s loss, before coming clean.

“It’s always good to get into game situations and feel that pressure on the forecheck and make some plays and make some hits, take some hits. It served its purpose.”

BRING ON THE SHARKS

The third seeded Canucks face the San Jose Sharks, who finished in sixth thanks to a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the final game of the regular season. By no means did the Sharks back into the playoffs, though, they had already secured a spot and actually only finished two points behind the Canucks in the standings.

“Every single team is a good team, I think they’re all playing the same way LA, St. Louis and San Jose,” assessed Henrik Sedin. “It’s going to be a tough, grinding series, they’ve got some big bodies. We’ve played them before, we know we’ve got a good team in here and we’re looking forward to them.”

Chris Higgins, who skated with Zack Kassian and Ryan Kesler, while Derek Roy was between Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen at practice Monday, is also preparing for a tough series with the Sharks.

“It seems like we always have fun games against these guys, they compete hard and they’ve got a lot of skill over there and we’re looking forward to another emotional series against these guys,” said Higgins, adding he’s comfortable playing with Kassian and Kesler.

The Canucks will practice at Rogers Arena against Tuesday morning.