Shirokov falls short with Canucks

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

Sergei Shirokov looks nothing like a guy who spent the better part of the last two weeks in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse for being out of shape.

After getting demoted by the Vancouver Canucks after playing only two NHL pre-season games partly due to subpar conditioning, Shirokov showed up in Winnipeg on Friday morning with a sunny disposition and bursting with excitement when talking about the upcoming Manitoba Moose season.

“It should be a little bit easier for me,” said Shirokov, who had 22 goals and 45 points in 76 games with the Moose last season and appeared in his first six NHL games with the Canucks. “I know what I need to do and I know the systems.”

Last season was Shirokov’s first in North America and there were some ups-and-downs to endure. During some stretches, he was a magician with the puck and showcased sweet hands and a blistering shot.

But those moments were offset by stretches of inconsistency, one of which saw Shirokov demoted to the fourth line and taken off the power play during the playoffs.

Still, Shirokov was generally pleased with how his first season with the Moose went considering he was learning a new system and culture.

“It was pretty good for me,” said Shirokov, who had 41 points in 56 games for CKSA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008-09. “It was not easy, being in a different country and a different mentality. It was a good experience for me.”

Shirokov isn’t setting any concrete goals for production this season.

“I don’t know, I just want to help the team every game,” said Shirokov. “If I score goals and we win, that will be good and if I block shots and the team wins, that will be good too. It doesn’t matter how many goals I score or how many assists. I’m not playing tennis, this is a team sport.

“I feel better psychologically. I want to play in the NHL and I know I need more practice on and off the ice and I know I need to focus on my game.”

As for his conditioning, the 24-year-old from Moscow was a bit puzzled by the results as he was working with a personal trainer over the summer. Several casual observers also thought Shirokov was in better shape and looked slimmer than he did last spring.

“I listened to the coach and I am working on it,” said Shirokov. “We’ll see what happens.”

Shirokov was looking on the bright side when asked about his second training camp experience with the Canucks.

“There were a lot of very good players and a lot of competition,” said Shirokov, who made the opening day roster of the Canucks last fall before he was demoted after three games. “I played two games and had one assist. The first game I played with (Manny) Malhotra and (Raffi) Torres and the next game I played with the (Sedin) twins. After that, no more games but it was a pretty good camp.”

Moose head coach Claude Noel came away with a good first impression of Shirokov.

“I liked his overall game,” said Noel. “He’s an offensive guy and he played well. He was creative, he can shoot the puck and make plays. I’ve watched him on tape. For a first year player coming over from Russia last year, I thought he had a pretty good season.

“What I would like to do with him this year is build on last season and try to have him produce a little bit more. Both my job and his job will be to figure out a way for him to be an NHL player. Sometimes it’s just part of the process, maturing as a player and as a person.”

Shirokov wasn’t in the lineup on Friday, but is a good bet to be in uniform Saturday at the PCU Centre in Portage la Prairie as the Moose and Abbotsford Heat meet in the rematch at 7 p.m.


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