“I’m used to seeing him on our bench,” Morrison said Monday after the Canucks practised at GM Place. “It’s going to be a little different. “I think it’s going to be fun. We were pretty close.”
The two remain friends off the ice, but Morrison knows Jovanovski won’t hesitate to staple his old roomy into the boards if he doesn’t keep his head up.
“If he has the chance I wouldn’t put it past him,” the Canuck centre said with a grin. “I’m sure he’s going to come out and play with a lot of energy, like he normally does. I don’t think he’s going to let anyone off the hook if he gets the chance.”
The game will be Jovanovski’s first in Vancouver since the all-star defenceman signed a US$32.5-million, five-year contract with Phoenix in July.
After spending seven seasons with the Canucks, Jovanovski admitted it will be surreal to walk to the visitor’s dressing room.
“It’s going to be different,” the three-time all-star said in an interview with Team 1040 radio. “I’m kind of looking forward to it and not looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be a tough day. I’m sure it will be a little emotional.”
A series of injures limited Jovanovski to just 44 games with Vancouver last year and kept him from playing for Canada at the Turin Winter Olympics. He still managed five goals and 28 assists.
More than points, Jovanovski supplied an emotion the Canucks still lack on many nights. He has a bullet of a shot and can wound opponents with bruising hits along the boards.
Vancouver management knew re-signing the unrestricted free agent would be difficult last summer. When the Canucks agreed to a four-year, US$27-million contract with goaltender Roberto Luongo, then signed Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin to three-year deals worth US$10.75 million, it was apparent Jovanovski was no longer in their plans.
“Sometimes it’s unfortunate but it’s a business,” said Jovanovski. “Sometimes you make decisions to go elsewhere. That’s what happened in my case.”
When Phoenix started the season 3-10, and Jovanovski had only five points, some questioned the wisdom of signing the 30-year-old former first overall draft pick. But heading into Monday night’s game against San Jose, the Coyotes were 5-3 in their previous eight starts and Jovanovski had two goals and four assists in those matches.
“We’ve been a totally different team of late,” said Jovanovski. “We’re starting to get guys back healthy. We’re playing better hockey. We’re playing along and we’re trying to get the job done.”
Heading into Monday’s game Jovanovski was second in scoring for the Coyotes with 16 points. The six goals he has in 28 games are more goals than nine of the Canucks forwards have scored this season.
The Canucks are having a win-one, lose-one type of season. They beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime Friday, then were beaten 5-3 by Northwest Division rival Calgary on Saturday.
Vancouver’s 14-15-1 record leaves them ninth in the Western Conference.
“The positive thing is no one is pulling away,” said Morrison. “We are still in the hunt here. If we can put together a little string here and win, we’ll be all right.”
After struggling to score goals all season, Vancouver has managed seven in the last two games. Six of those goals have come on the power play.
“I think we’ve simplified it more,” said captain Markus Naslund. “We’re shooting the puck and we’re getting traffic in front, rebounds and deflections.
“It just shows that sometimes you have to go back to the basics.”
While the power play has improved, the Canucks have given up an uncharacteristic 77 shots over the last two games.
Coach Alain Vigneault said building a winning team is like putting a jig-saw puzzle together.
“That’s been part of our challenge this year, getting all the pieces to come together,” he said. “We haven’t been able to put all our game together.
“That’s why I’m so positive we’re going to get on a roll here. Once we get (all the pieces) clicking, we’re going to win the consecutive games we need to win to get into the playoffs.”