VANCOUVER - When it comes to the preseason for the players, it's all about standing out with a limited amount of playing time.
Judging from the Vancouver Canucks' exhibition home opener Tuesday, Steve Pinizzotto did just that.
The Toronto native, a free agent signed with the Canucks on July 3, helped anchor the team's best line of the night in a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.
Expected to bring toughness and grit, the 27-year-old also contributed on the scoreboard, setting up Jordan Schroeder's tying tally with a great cross-ice pass before adding an assist on Nicklas Jensen's winner. He finished with three shots on net and threw five hits, tied for second most on the team.
“I’m not a heavyweight, but I like to go and make the big checks, and finish every check and try to get involved in the play in every aspect,” said Pinizzotto, who will be in the lineup for the Canucks’ third preseason game Thursday in Edmonton. “I ended up getting some points (Tuesday) but it’s over now. You got to look forward to the next day.”
Pinizzotto has obviously made an early impression on coach Alain Vigneault, who singled out the line as one he liked following the game.
The winger knows just how important this opportunity is for him, having been stuck in the AHL since 2007 while still awaiting his NHL debut. Last season with the Hershey Bears -– the affiliate of the Washington Capitals -– he had 42 points and 178 penalty minutes in 68 games.
“It’s huge for myself, especially being in the minors for years and trying to get up there,” he said of making the most of his preseason appearances. “It seems like they are giving everybody an opportunity and it comes down to whoever brings it the most at the end of the day. That’s what I’m looking to do.”
Specifically, Pinizzotto is looking to bring energy to a team with large question marks in their bottom lineup spots, and also to provide toughness. According to hockeyfights.com, he had seven tilts last season in the AHL.
“I like to create space for my linemates and get the crowd involved,” he said. “When they get involved, the team starts playing a little bit better. That’s what I do.”