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Rookie defenceman Luc Bourdon given another chance to show he should stay

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Bourdon, picked 10th overall by Vancouver in last year's draft, will replace Sami Salo, who will miss the game with a groin injury. After almost making the team last year, a lot was expected of the six-foot-two, 200-pound Bourdon this season. He has size, he likes playing physical, and he can move the puck.

The 19-year-old struggled during the exhibition season. He then looked tentative and nervous in his first NHL game Tuesday night in Minnesota where he saw almost eight minutes of ice time dressed as a seventh defenceman.

"I think I did play good last game so I will try to do the same thing," Bourdon, a native of Shippagan, N.B., said after practice Thursday.

"I have to do my job on the ice. Go out there, work hard, do the simple things."

Coach Alain Vigneault said with the Canucks having the last change, he expects Bourdon to see more ice time against the Sharks.

"Luc has come along well," Vigneault said. "He's a young player with a lot of potential.

"If we want him to grow and develop properly, we have to put him in situations where he can have success. At this stage we feel Luc can play against the third and fourth line and do well."

During an afternoon news conference the Canucks announced Chris Zimmerman has been hired as the team's president and chief executive officer. Zimmerman spent the last three years as president and CEO of Nike Bauer Hockey Inc.

The Canucks can dress Bourdon for nine games before they decide if they are going to keep him for the remainder of the season or return him to the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

It can be a tough choice. The Vancouver coaching staff must decide if Bourdon's development is better served by playing limited minutes in the NHL, or being head-and-shoulders better than most of his opposition in junior.

"If Luc can play and contribute and help us win games, he's going to stay," Vigneault said. "If at some point we figure he's not helping us win games and he's not ready for the NHL, then we're going to make that decision.

"At this time, what we've seen, is a lot of up side. His skill is evident but playing defence is a tough position."

Bourdon said he isn't feeling squeezed by the nine-game window.

"They'll decide at the end what they want to do," he said. "If I do the job, I think I have a chance to stay.

"If you don't play well, you're not going to play."

The Canucks (2-1-1) opened the season with a four-game road trip where they managed to earn five of a possible eight points.

It's a positive start for a team picked by many to miss the playoffs this year.

"During training camp we played well defensively," said left-winger Daniel Sedin, who leads the team with three goals and five points. "We didn't score much, but we knew if we played good defence we would be in every game."

Vancouver's early success can be attributed to strong goaltending from Roberto Luongo and some big numbers from its top line of the Sedin twins with Markus Naslund.

Luongo, who came to the Canucks from Florida in the Todd Bertuzzi trade, has a 1.73 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in four games.

"I don't think I'm playing better now than I was in Florida," he said. "The circumstances are different because I think we have a better team.

"We're giving up less scoring chances so that's why my stats might look a little better."

The line of Naslund, along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, collected 13 of the 26 points the Canucks registered in the first four games.

While the top unit is purring along like a Porsche, the other three lines are sputtering like an old Lada.

The second line of Brendan Morrison, Jan Bulis and Matt Cooke hasn't sent a shiver of fear through the opposition. Bulis and Cooke are the only Canucks forwards without a point while Morrison's lone goal bounced in off his back.

"It's up to myself and my linemates to begin scoring more if we're going to be successful," said Morrison, who along with Bulis, was benched in the third period of Sunday's overtime loss to Colorado.

"In every game we've had Grade A chances. We still have to generate more. When we get chances we have to bear down."

The Canucks also can be better at special teams. Heading into Thursday night, the Vancouver power play was ranked 12th in the league at 17.6 per cent but the penalty kill was 26th.



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