VANCOUVER – What a difference a year makes for Cody Hodgson.
The Vancouver centre scored two goals Saturday as the Canucks beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 the final pre-season game for both teams.
Hodgson finished the exhibition schedule with three goals in seven games, the maximum in which any Vancouver player could participate.
It’s a sharp contrast from last fall, when he was limited by a lingering back injury and his future with the organization was in doubt.
“I think for him, the fact that he was able to play in all those games was a good thing,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “There’s nothing like playing at this level, playing against this competition. If you play against better players, it makes you better.
“It was a good camp and he played well again tonight.”
The Canucks played eight exhibition games, but the first two were held on the same night and involved split squads, so Hodgson was only limited by the schedule itself this time.
He was pleased with his performance Saturday as the Canucks now turn their focus to the regular season.
“I thought it went well,” said 21-year-old from Markham, Ont. “Obviously, it took a full 60 minutes to win, but it was a full team effort and it feels great to be able to contribute.”
Jannik Hansen and Mikael Samuelsson had the other goals for the Canucks (3-5-0). Hansen scored at 5:06 of the third period to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead.
Samuelsson scored with 45 seconds left in the third and Hodgson scored his second of the night into an empty net late to seal it.
Magnus Paajarvi replied for Edmonton (5-3-0).
At outset of training camp, many wondered whether Hodgson, who split the 2010-11 seasons between the Canucks and the minors while dealing with his back injury and a fractured orbital bone, would start the season in the NHL.
Now, barring any unforeseen moves, the Canucks’ 2009 first-round draft choice has pencilled himself in as Vancouver’s second-line centre until Ryan Kesler returns from a hip injury.
“I was feeling good every game,” Hodgson said. “I’m excited for the regular season.”
He acknowledged this pre-season was different from the last one, but added his health issues are behind him.
“I had a good summer of training and I’m making sure everything’s fine,” he said. “I don’t need to (rehab the back) like I used to do it—half an hour before practice every day. It’s once a week now, or something like that.
“It’s fun. I can just worry about playing hockey and not all the other stuff.”
The Canucks dressed the lineup that is expected to start the regular season Thursday at home against Pittsburgh. For most Vancouver players, including the top line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, it was only their second game of the pre-season.
The Oilers, meanwhile, were missing several regulars who were injured or scratched.
Despite the difference in rosters, the entertainment quality was much higher than the previous pre-season contests at Rogers Arena. The game good flow and both Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and Oilers counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin delivered strong efforts.
Hodgson opened the scoring for the Canucks on a power play 13:51 into the game, deflecting home a Dan Hamhuis slapshot.
Paajarvi tied it 1-1 on an Edmonton power play just over five minutes into the second period. The goal came off a scramble after a Canucks defenceman pushed Paajarvi into Luongo and knocked the goaltender over.
Edmonton dominated the rest of the period but could not beat Luongo again.
Oilers coach Tom Renney said it took his club a while to get up to speed against the first full NHL roster it has faced so far. He praised his players’ effort after many played their second game in two nights.
“We’ve had a good hard-working pre-season here,” Renney said.
The clubs recorded 29 shots apiece and both went 1-for-5 on the power play.
Chris Higgins picked up three assists for Vancouver, while Hamhuis finished with two.
Notes: Vancouver’s Alex Edler was penalized under the NHL’s new head shot rule in the second period when he collided with Edmonton’s Taylor Hall in the corner. Canucks winger Marco Sturm was penalized for hitting Jeff Petry in the head in the third period. … Oilers rookie Taylor Fedun is expected to miss the entire regular season after suffering a badly broken leg Friday in Minnesota. He was injured when Wild winger Eric Nystrom tried to beat out an icing call and sent him heavily into the end boards. The incident has renewed calls from broadcaster Don Cherry and others for the NHL to introduce no-touch icing. Some are speculating that the 23-year-old Edmonton native’s career may be over. … Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was born and raised in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, played his first pro game in his hometown.