VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are looking to ignite their offence and end their struggles on home ice as they prepare for the second game of the Western Conference quarter-final series with the San Jose Sharks.
“I need more from the whole team,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault after a short practice Thursday. “There’s no doubt there. All our players understand we have to get better and we’re gong to get better.”
Vancouver’s only goal in Wednesday’s 3-1 series-opening loss came after Sharks winger Raffi Torres, a former Canuck, inadvertently put the puck in San Jose’s net.
Vigneault is looking for his team to put more pressure on Sharks netminder Antti Niemi. Vancouver’s best chances came mainly from outside in Game 1, and the coach wants his players to move the puck up ice and crash the net like they can.
“Our players, in my mind, are battled tested, they’re pressure tested,” said Vigneault. “At the end of the day, it’s about making plays. We need to make more plays. We need to make more plays out of our end to get through that neutral zone better.
“At this time of year, goals that are scored five on five are usually on second, third and fourth efforts—battles in front of the nets—and we need to do a better job there.”
Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, who will start again as Cory Schneider continues to recover from an undisclosed injury suffered late in the regular season, said the Canucks also have to do a better job of getting the puck out of their zone and forechecking.
“We need to be a bit more assertive on our forecheck, break the puck out cleaner, whether that exchanges with myself and the D-men or D-men with forwards,” said Luongo. “Communication is really key in situations like that. Just sharpen up in general.”
Henrik and Daniel Sedin also want to see the Canucks improve their fore-check after they remained winless in four encounters with San Jose, including three in the regular season. After the Game 1 loss, the twins said the Sharks were able to move the puck out of their zone with ease.
In another potential shakeup, the Canucks recalled forward Brendan Gaunce, the team’s first round pick, 26th overall, in the 2012 draft. Gaunce had 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in 17 OHL playoff games with the Belleville Bulls.
The Canucks played a dump-and-chase game in Game 1 that might be adjusted in Game 2.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton and coach Todd McLellan said the Canucks came at them with a heavy forecheck, notably in the first period, but the visitors were able to adjust. Strategy aside, the Sharks are expecting the Canucks to display much more intensity Friday.
“You’ve got to think they’re going to come out (thinking) do or die next game,” said Thornton. “I expect their best effort—and I expect our best, too.”
The Canucks have not been able to produce their best effort at home though. The hosts will attempt to end a five-game home playoff losing streak that stretches back to the 2010-11 Stanley Cup finals.
But Vancouver’s recent home records suggests it could recover quickly at Rogers Arena. The Canucks won eight of their last nine regular season games at home.
Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle doesn’t expect the Canucks to feel overly pressured at home, because they’ll realize one loss does not automatically kill their Stanley Cup hopes.
Vigneault wants his team’s leaders to stress that point, too, while realizing the importance of the games.
“They’re all must wins in the playoffs,” Vigneault said. “Playoffs is a different animal. The leadership group has to come in and make sure everybody is on an even keel, whether we win or lose and realize this is not a sprint. It’s a long series. We know it wasn’t going to be easy.”
But San Jose coach Todd McLellan, whose club lost the 2010-11 Western Conference final to Vancouver, believes that another win will put his club in good shape before the series shifts to San Jose for Games 3 and 4.
“Coming home with one (win) in the bank is good, but coming home with two in the bank is excellent—and that’ll be the goal,” said McLellan.
Notes: The Canucks signed D Henrik Tommernes to an entry-level contract. … McLellan declined to discuss F Martin Havlat’s status for Game 2, other than to say he received treatment Thursday. Havlat left Game 1 after the first period. … Vigneault defended the effort of F Ryan Kesler, who did little offensively in the first game after missing the morning skate. Kesler, Derek Roy and Chris Higgins were reunited in practice after being separated in Game 1. They excelled together late in the regular season. … Vigneault declined to say whether Schneider has suffered a setback in his recovery. … Thornton said he and F Logan Couture cheated on face-offs in the first game, but Henrik Sedin and Kesler did likewise.