Down the stretch for Canucks

GUTS McTAVISH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

With a perenial playoff pretender like the Blue Jackets breathing down their necks for the final playoff spot, it is imperative that the Canucks use this recent seven-day layoff to mount a serious run. To make this happen, certain players on the squad will need to take their game to another level.

- PAVOL DEMITRA: After his coach sent him a message by sticking him on the fourth line a few weeks back, Demitra responded immediately by playing the inspired hockey that initially earned him his $4-million salary. Once a player like this shows he can raise his game, there is no going back. Coach Alain Vigneault's hook will be quick with Demitra the rest of the way and Pavol now knows it.

- MATS SUNDIN: His progress has been slower than most thought it would be. An inspired Demitra playing along side him will do wonders for his game. Once his scoring touch comes back to him, the Sedin Line, Kesler's line and especially the power play all benefit significantly.

- KEVIN BIEKSA: His play has dropped off more than any other blueliner on the team. For a guy with an Ivy League education it's no surprise he has a tendency to over-think the game. If Salo can stay in the lineup this time it will take enormous pressure off Bieksa by shaving his minutes per game down to a more reasonable level.

- ROBERTO LUONGO: When he gets back into top form and he will, the problems that the defence have had the past month will quickly disappear. Great players make those around them better. Luongo when he's in full control of his game will allow the forwards the luxury of thinking offence first.

- SAMI SALO: If you look closely you can see a tiny reminder written on his stick that says: Don't forget to take your Boniva! I'm not focused on his big shot from the point; his real impact will be felt in how the Canucks carry the puck out of their own end, something that has been nothing short of an adventure of late.

These key players are also among the team's most well rested with Salo missing 22 games, Demitra 11 games, Bieksa nine games, Sundin half a season and Luongo a third of a season. No acceptable excuses if these five can't deliver.

See Guts' game-day V-blog at vancouver. 24hrs.ca/gutsmctavish


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