Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ducks take bite out of Canucks

Special to Taking Note

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks’ hopes of making the NHL playoffs continue to fade.
For most of the season, Vancouver has struggled to score goals. But ever since a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on March 23, Vancouver’s offence had started to show some life.
Vancouver forward Zack Kassian, who has had difficulties providing consistent offence since donning a Canucks' sweater, finished with four assists while playing on a line with David Booth and Brad Richardson that night.
“You know what, I know that everyone is going to focus on the four points that he gets,” John Tortorella, the Canucks' head coach, said. “But, for me, there were some other things.
“I thought that there were times that he dumped the puck at the right time, instead of trying to make something happen.
“I thought he changed up, and you guys might think it's small things but those are the things that we're looking for. He changed up at the right time, and you can see the concentration in his game. You see it, and want to see it more.”
The Canucks then headed out on a two-game road trip that had them visit Colorado and Minnesota. Vancouver defeated the Wild 5-2, but lost 3-2 in overtime against the Avalanche.
The 22-year-old Kassian continued to click on a line with Richardson and Booth, as they continued to appear on the scoresheet on the road trip, combining for six points, including two goals from Kassian.
As well, Canucks' sniper Daniel Sedin scored his first goal in 24 games, as he got one against the Wild.
“It was probably my worst game out of (those 24 games), but I was able to tip one in,” he said. “It's nice, but hopefully it can get me going, and in the right direction.”
But, quite frankly, all of that doesn't matter.
Vancouver is desperate for anything that will lead to victories if it wants even a slight chance of making the playoffs. The Canucks, who have 79 points in the Western Conference, and are the No. 10 seed.
Anaheim, Calif., the home of Disneyland, is considered by many to the happiest place of Earth. It also is the home of the Ducks, who have been one of the best teams in the league this season.
As a result, many of the their opponents haven't left the city with smiles on their faces. That’s the way it was for the Canucks on Jan. 14 when they lost 9-1, leaving the Ducks with a Ducks a 20-0-2 record when playing in their home arena, the Honda Center.
“It's never a great feeling to be on the wrong side of a 9-1 game,” said Canucks' defenceman Dan Hamhuis, who finished with a minus-1 on the night. “We played a pretty solid first period, and played in a way that gave us a chance to win. Their power play (was really good) and the game kind of got away from us from there.”
Vancouver wasn't scheduled to play the Ducks at the Honda Center on Saturday night; the game was at Rogers Arena. However, the Canucks needed to find a way to get on the winning side as they were winless in each of the three times they had faced Anaheim this season.
“It's a must win,” Kassian said prior to the game. “We feel we played well on the road but with the situation we're in, we still have a hill to climb and this is a must-win game. We don't want to look to far down. We need to win this one tonight and it's against a very good team, but we feel that the way we have been playing, we can beat these guys.”
Kassian finished with an assist, extending his point streak to four games. But the goal on which he assisted, which came from Richardson at 11:12 of the first period, was the only one the Canucks were able to put up as they dropped a 6-1 decision.
“It's definitely frustrating right now,” Kassian explained. “There's no ifs, ands or buts about it, we're on the outside looking in and to lose a game like this tonight, it's very frustrating. But we have to be professionals and go about our business. Like I said earlier, like I said 100 times in the past week, we're competitors and we want to play for each other. That's what we're going to do.”
And so Vancouver doesn't move anywhere in the standings. It remains on the outside looking in, continuing to battle Phoenix and Dallas for the final playoff spot. The Coyotes and Stars are Nos. 8 and 9 in the Western Conference, with have 84 and 83 points, respectively.
Like the Canucks, Dallas and Phoenix played on Saturday. The Stars defeated the St. Louis Blues, but the Coyotes lost to Minnesota. Both teams have games in hand on Vancouver.
“We try to look for some help but I don't know if we really deserve it, to be honest,” Richardson confessed. “It sucks to be in a position where you have to rely on teams to lose, and we're not winning all our games. So, you know, what do you expect? We'll see what happens.”
Time is clearly starting to run out, with the Canucks having only six games left in the season.
“Every loss now is tough,” Sedin said. “We need wins, we need points. Yeah, it's tough, but we have to stay positive and keep going. That's all we can do.”
NOTES: Vancouver D Kevin Bieksa (leg) took the team's morning skate and dressed against the Ducks. . . . Canucks' D Andrew Alberts (concussion) skated, but is likely done for the season. . . . Vancouver F Henrik Sedin remains day-to-day. . . . Vancouver G Eddie Lack made his 16th consecutive start. . . . Canucks' head coach John Tortorella confirmed that the team has re-assigned D Frank Corrado to the AHL's Utica Comets. . . . Vancouver took Sunday off, then will return to practice on Monday as it prepares to play host to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

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