WINNIPEG - The way Sergei Shirokov was playing at both ends of the ice, it was only a matter of time before he was going to get another chance with the Vancouver Canucks.
Turns out that time is now, as the Canucks recalled the Russian forward on Monday and plan to insert him into the lineup on Tuesday night as they close out a five-game road trip at the Pepsi Center against the Colorado Avalanche.
Shirokov was the surprise story of training camp in 2009, earning an opening-day roster spot and appearing in six games (no points) before being demoted to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
Shirokov managed 22 goals and 45 points with the Moose in his first season in North America and after a mediocre start to this season, the sixth round pick (163rd overall) of the Canucks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has really hit his stride of late.
Along with riding a 12-game point streak, Shirokov (who leads the Moose with 16 goals ad 33 points in 39 games) is doing more than just play in the offensive zone and that change hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s ready,” said Moose head coach Claude Noel. “He’s shown that he’s a pretty reliable two-way player that plays with skill and has finish. I’ll be interested to watch him play. I look forward to it.”
The growth in Shirokov’s all-around game has been impressive.
“It’s nice to see him get rewarded. He really deserves it, he’s been one of our most consistent players the last few weeks,” said Moose winger Guillaume Desbiens. “I found him really tough to play with last year because he was just getting adjusted to the North American style of play. Now he’s really changed his game.”
Moose centre Mario Bliznak heard the news from Shirokov firsthand and was thrilled to share in the excitement.
“It’s good for him,” said Bliznak. “He called me right after the Canucks game (Sunday night) and said he got the call. I was so happy. He was playing really well for us. He’s got lots of points and he’s been working hard. He stepped up his game. Not only is he playing well offensively, he’s playing well in the defensive zone too. That’s going to help him. He’s a good all-around player. Hopefully, he’ll do well.”
Reports suggest Shirokov should get an opportunity to play an offensive role during this recall, meaning he might even get a shot with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond.
With Canucks defenceman Andrew Alberts suffering a shoulder sprain on Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild, it looks like rookie Chris Tanev will make his NHL debut against the Avalanche as well.
Tanev, who was recalled from the Moose on Sunday, is expected to be paired with Keith Ballard.