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Vancouver Canucks not pressing panic button about struggling power play

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

VANCOUVER - Henrik Sedin and the Vancouver Canucks aren't pressing the panic button regarding the club's moribund power play.

Vancouver has led the NHL in that department for most of this season but has suddenly slipped to third. That lack of production is affecting other aspects of its offensive game.

“A lot of games you feel a little sluggish but maybe you get a power-play goal and all of a sudden you're confident,”said Henrik Sedin, who has a league-high 53 assists this season.

A power play that once clicked near 25 per cent has dropped behind Edmonton (21.7) and Nashville (21.4) as Vancouver tries to again end the regular season with the league’s best record.

The Canucks are still converting at 21 per cent efficiency but are just 5-for-48 in their last 19 games—barely above 10 per cent.

Despite this lack of production, Vancouver has a 13-2-5 record in its last 20 games and is only a point behind the New York Rangers for the NHL’s overall lead entering Monday’s schedule.

The Rangers have two games in hand.

Henrik Sedin and his brother, Daniel, feel they aren't getting the chances they did early in the season as teams become more reluctant to take bad penalties in the second half of the season.

“In October, November you get four, five, six power plays a game and you're in kind of a flow,”Daniel Sedin said.“Now it's one or two a game and it's a totally different feeling.

"It's more a matter of getting the flow out there so we're working a lot in practice at these kind of things.”

That's what the Canucks did Monday as they prepared to face the Dallas Stars on Tuesday after going 0-for-4 with the man advantage in a 5-3 home loss Saturday to the Buffalo Sabres.

“For the most part it feels good out there,”Henrik Sedin said of the power play which also includes Ryan Kesler up front with Alex Edler and Sami Salo on defence.“We're moving the puck well but we're not getting the bounces.

“The amount of power plays have dropped dramatically after the New Year so it’s tough to get into rhythm (unless) you get four or five power plays. Right now it feels if you get one, you're not going to get another chance.”

The lack of power-play goals has also affected the Sedins' scoring as they have dropped out of the top five in the NHL to eighth (Henrik) and ninth.

Daniel Sedin, who leads the club with 28 goals and nine on the power play, hasn't scored in five games. Henrik has no points in a season-high five-game drought.

Kesler, who provides the screens and tip-ins for the twins, has only one goal in 11 games.

He agrees the lack of power-play opportunities has been a factor and affected other aspects of his game.

“When you've got that, you press more,”Kesler said.“It's not so much getting goals.

"We want to generate momentum. When you generate momentum, you get (even-strength) goals.”

Coach Alain Vigneault has taken a glass half-full approach to the Sedins' mini-slump.

“They haven't been five-on-five as good as they normally are (but) I'd like to look at this in a positive way”Vigneault said.“They're still one and two in scoring in our conference.

“I know the power play has slipped a little bit but we're still one of the best scoring teams in the NHL this year. I know these two guys, I know where their hearts are. I know how much they work. Points might be a little more challenging right now but I've got a feeling when push comes to shove they're going to be there. They always have (been) for us.”

With an 18-point lead atop the Northwest Division, Vigneault has the luxury of being able to tinker with his lineup down the stretch.

That’s led to rookie Zack Kassian, obtained in the trade deadline deal that sent Cody Hodgson to Buffalo, to continue working in practice on the second line with Kesler and David Booth.

“You saw it last game, big body, skates well, good on the puck,”Kesler said of the six-foot-three, 228-pound Kassian.“He's pretty good around the net, he's smart with the puck and I definitely enjoy playing with him.”

Kassian, 21, who scored his first goal as a Canuck and crashed and banged along the boards against Buffalo, joined the second line in the third period against the Sabres.

“I want to open up the ice as much as possible, maybe give (Kesler) a little bit more time with the puck,”Kassian said.“That has been my role all the way through, be hard on the forecheck and finish checks and try to create room.”

Vigneault said Canuck scouts felt Kassian could become a top-six forward but he's not sure how long that will take.

“He has obviously caught our attention in the skill level and the physicality that he can bring,”the coach said.

NOTES: The Stars moved into seventh in the Western Conference as a result of their 3-2 shootout win Sunday over the Calgary Flames . . . Dallas defeated the Canucks 3-2 in Texas on Feb. 26. It was Vancouver’s only overtime loss in six games decided in the five-minute extra period.



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