Canucks coach Alain Vigneault says special teams are lacking urgency

As a matter of fact, Vigneault sounded like a man who had something unpleasant happen to his breakfast cereal Monday morning.

The usually good-natured coach was frustrated over the Canucks special teams play of late. He was also tired of hearing about the physical game the Anaheim Ducks played in a 4-2 win over Vancouver Sunday. And Vigneault seemed annoyed that defenceman Willie Mitchell might miss Tuesday night’s key divisional match against the Minnesota Wild with a sore groin.

“On both our power-play and penalty kill there’s a little bit more urgency that is needed,” said Vigneault.

He hopes to find that urgency against the Wild, who are just two points behind Vancouver in the race for first place in the Northwest Division.

“The team that is going to execute the best with the puck, and whose special teams are going to be better, is going to probably win that game,” said Vigneault.

Vancouver’s penalty killing is ranked the best in the league at 87.2 per cent efficiency, but it has been slipping.

The Canucks have allowed power-play goals in 10 of their last 11 games. Against the Ducks, they were scored on twice while playing a man short and another goal came just as a penalized Canuck stepped on the ice.

Meanwhile, Vancouver has scored just one power-play goal in 19 chances over the last five games. The Canucks were 0-7 against the Ducks and the team’s power play is ranked 20th in the league.

“We have to execute, we have to get more shots and traffic in front and more urgency,” said Vigneault.

“Our penalty kill lately has sort of slacked off. I don’t think we are reading or anticipating as well as we were early in the season.”

In Anaheim, the Ducks took some runs at the smaller Canucks, resulting in three first-period fights.

Vigneault said the Canucks allowed the Ducks to play that way because they didn’t score when they had the man advantage.

“If our power play works (against Anaheim) we probably win that game and we back them off a little bit and they are not as physical as they were,” said Vigneault.

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“Our skilled players, if they don’t want to get pushed and whacked after the whistle, when you get on the power play put the damn thing in the net and the other team will back off.”

Forward Brian Smolinski, who the Canucks obtained from Chicago at the trade deadline, didn’t think the Ducks were trying to intimidate Vancouver.

“I don’t think they tried to run us,” he said. “They just played a very hard game. We responded.”

Mitchell said the Canucks have been guilty of taking bad penalties recently, resulting in five-on-three and four-on-three situations.

“The odds of the opponents scoring are pretty good when you get in those situations,” he said.

“We’ve also had a few bounces where it’s been off a leg and in or a chest and in. Sometimes when that happens you are maybe more tentative.”

Mitchell, who already has missed six games this year with a groin problem, said he will decide after Tuesday’s morning skate if he will play against Minnesota.

“I hope so,” said the former Wild. “I like playing against former teammates”

Vancouver also has games Thursday against St. Louis and Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Vigneault seemed surprised that Mitchell is questionable.

“For me it’s tough to understand,” he said. “He’s probably one of our best conditioned athletes.

“That’s twice this year he’s had groin issues. I’m not sure what to make of it.”

The Canucks have won their last two meetings against Minnesota, with each game decided by one goal.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo said he expects another close game.

“We have to stay patient with our game,” said Luongo, who is second in the league with 39 wins. “We can’t really force things against those guys because they take advantage of our mistakes.

“We just need to be disciplined in our system.”