VANCOUVER, B.C. – One-quarter of the way into the National Hockey League season, Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault still doesn’t know what kind of team he has.
Vigneault’s Canucks have been decimated by injuries so far this season. Roberto Luongo missed six games before returning last week, Daniel Sedin has only played in four contests in all and Pavol Demitra has yet to lace up the skates.
Depth players like Sami Salo, Mathieu Schneider, Michael Grabner and Jannik Hansen have also missed significant time, making it difficult for Vigneault to assess where his team is at.
“We haven’t had our team at all this year at any one time,” Vigneault said after practice Monday.
“We do believe that we’ve got a good group here but until we see most of the guys back, it’s tough to evaluate exactly where we are.”
Vancouver entered play Monday tied for seventh in the Western Conference with 22 points. But the Canucks have also played 21 games, second only to the conference-leading San Jose Sharks.
Fresh off a four-game road trip in which they dropped the first three contests before blowing out Colorado Saturday night, the Canucks play the first of five consecutive home games Friday when they play host to those same Avalanche.
Vigneault said Monday some of the players on his team have the potential to up their game.
“We’ve faced a lot of challenges since the beginning of the year, but I do believe that a lot of guys can play better than what they’ve shown so far this year,” he said.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis echoed Vigneault’s words and said he’s looking forward to getting some of his troops back.
“I think we have a good team here. I think once we get everybody back in the lineup and healthy, we’ll have a really balanced scoring lineup, a lot of speed, a lot of intensity,” he said.
Daniel Sedin, who led Vancouver with 31 goals last season, hasn’t played since Oct. 7 because of a broken foot.
Vigneault said he’s hopeful Daniel will be back in game action soon.
“The injury was four to six weeks, it was a tough bone to heal. I think we’re approaching six weeks now,” he said.
Gillis said the team will err on the side of caution when it comes to Daniel’s return.
“They’re going to take their time. If the soreness persists, and it’s going away now, we don’t want him on the ice,” he said.
“Should be in the next couple of days.”
One player who hasn’t looked out of place with Daniel sidelined of late is twin brother Henrik.
Henrik, who led the team in assists last season when he also netted a career-high 22 goals, has already lit the lamp 12 times this season, including a hat-trick against Colorado Saturday.
“I’m taking shots in more scoring areas. I’m getting in better position to score and I think that’s the biggest difference,” Henrik said Monday, calling his play since his brother was injured “up and down.”
“The first couple of games, I still felt good. But there was a stretch, three or four games where I didn’t play good. … We lost a good player and he’s going to be missed that way but I haven’t changed the way I play.”
Asked to assess his team’s play so far this season, Henrik said the Canucks have been inconsistent.
“Of course, you want to have a better record than we have right now. But with the amount of injuries and our schedule, it’s not good but it’s decent for sure,” he said.
Captain Luongo said though the team has been hit hard by injuries, it can certainly perform better.
“I think we know that we’re better than what our record indicates right now. We’ve been treading water for a little bit, but I think it’s time, especially on this home stand, to start making a push,” he said.
Gillis also announced Monday the Canucks, or any other NHL team, won’t be adding Peter Forsberg.
Gillis said Forsberg has decided to play out the season with Modo in the Swedish Elite League.