'Jovo Jr.' makes most of his shot

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

The tag -- 'Jovo Jr.' -- came at Kevin Bieksa out of the blue.

Humbled him, too.

But the Vancouver Canucks second-year defenceman is deserving of the accolades starting to come his way. He's become the team's breakout player and is earning heady praise, including comparisons to the now-departed Ed Jovanovski.

"It's a compliment for me, right?" said Bieksa, who faced the Calgary Flames last night at the 'Dome. "Jovo has accomplished a lot in his career, the points he's put up, gold medals, et cetera, but I don't think you can compare me to him yet."

Maybe not yet. Maybe never. But the play of the 25-year-old from Grimsby, Ont., is taking away some of the sting from Jovanovski's departure for the Phoenix Coyotes last summer.

Before last night, Bieksa -- the fifth-round draft choice, 151st overall, in 2001 -- was riding a streak of 10 points in 10 games.

Among his tallies was a mid-December beauty, when he played give-and-go with Ryan Kesler before wiring a long wrister.

"The thing that most impressed me was the reaction to scoring a goal like that," said Canuck Josh Green. "Some people would go nuts, it would make their career but he has bigger and better things to do in his career."

The graduate of Bowling Green University faced the Flames last night with eight goals (one fewer than Calgary's Dion Phaneuf) and 20 points.

"Thing have gone well," Bieksa said.

"I've been put in key situations ... Playing with good players, when you get open, they find you."

Of course, it helps when you can skate well enough to catch up to the play when it hits the offensive zone.

"When we were struggling to score goals, we talked about getting the defencemen to join in the rush and take away some of the pressure from our forwards," he said.

But there's more to Bieksa's game than points, as the rest of the league is finding out.

Not overly big at 6-ft. 1-in., 205-lb., he's still tough enough to drop the gloves. Flames defenceman Andrew Ference had his hands full when he tangled with Bieksa late in the second period last night.

Bieksa can play defence, too.

Teamed with Willie Mitchell in the three most recent meetings with Calgary, Bieksa's been instrumental in holding Jarome Iginla to just one assist in the trio of Canucks victories.

"He's a nice surprise," Green said. "I think deep down inside the team knew he had that ability but weren't sure he'd show it this quickly."


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