VANCOUVER - Don’t look too much into the Vancouver Canucks bag skate at Thursday’s practice.
While it may look like a reactionary response by the coaching staff following the 5-1 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, forcing the team to skate lines was just part of a “work day” as they head into a three-day break between games. Or so coach Alain Vigneault said.
Either way, the players anticipated the post-practice conditioning drill and noted it was needed.
“When you have three, four days in between games and you have a day off, sometimes you practise a little harder off the bat and get a day to recover afterwards,” said Kevin Bieksa. “Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes doing that and going through it but it makes you better in the end.”
Getting better is exactly what the Canucks must do, and that begins with finding consistency. It’s something this team is not unfamiliar with, after long winning stretches last season, putting together streaks of four-games-or-more seven times. So what’s different now?
“We’ll play a great game and then we’ll come out and then play a 50-minute game,” said Cory Schneider, who has lost three straight starts. “Right now in this league it seems like everyone is gunning for us, no one is going to lay down against us. I’m not just trying to draw positives from another loss but we’ve been trying to find the answers for a while now.”
One thing they can draw from, however, is a somewhat similar scenario around the same time last season. The Canucks were embarrassed 7-1 by the Blackhawks on Nov. 20, 2010. Afterwards, the players conducted a team meeting and then went on to win 18 of their next 23 — with points in 21 of those games.
Daniel Sedin said that defeat was a wake-up call.
“From that point on, everyone was clear cut on what we had to do out there,” he said. “It’s the same kind of feeling this year. We have played better lately and obviously (Wednesday) night, it was not the result that we wanted. We’re going to come back and be better Sunday (against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena).”
Alex Burrows also recalls that loss to Chicago and the way the Canucks rebounded.
“We talked about having to tighten up defensively and we had to be a tougher team to play against,” he said. “We had to be a team that people had to earn their goals to score against us. We’re on the right path here.”
The Canucks were missing several key players at practice Thursday.
Ryan Kesler didn’t skate and was given the day off to take care of his stiff shoulder. He crashed into the boards late in the second period against the Blackhawks. Roberto Luongo practised before the team did and is still day-to-day with an upper body injury. The Canucks sent goaltender Eddie Lack back to the AHL to save on cap space.
Keith Ballard, who left Wednesday’s game in the first period, was also missing after suffering back issues following a hit.