Newcomer Kassian finally comes through

Zack Kassian #9 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to get past Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Buffalo...

Zack Kassian #9 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to get past Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Buffalo Sabres as goalie Ryan Miller #30 looks on during the second period in NHL action on March 03, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Rich Lam/AFP)

The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

Zack Kassian turned some pre-game hype into substance on Saturday night.

The 20-year-old Canucks rookie scored his first two points in a Vancouver uniform in a 5-3 loss to his former Buffalo Sabres team.

For the previous two days, Kassian and returning Canuck Cody Hodgson had been the talk of the town. They were the lynchpins of the four-play trade the Canucks and Buffalo swung at last Monday’s NHL trading deadline.

Canucks fans had been bemoaning the popular Hodgson’s departure at a time when he was among rookie scoring leaders. Sports radio talk-show callers fretted that the Canucks would get burned like they did when the club sent future Hall of Famer Cam Neely to the Boston Bruins for Barry Pederson — or many others over their four decades of NHL existence.

Kassian, a 20-year-old Windsor, Ont., native, who stands six-foot-three and weighs 220 pounds, is the anti-Cody. Hodgson, 22, smaller and slighter, is a shifty playmaker who can also score. Kassian was acquired for his physical prowess, because general manager Mike Gillis wanted the club to get a power forward that Vancouver lacked in last spring’s Stanley Cup finals.

Hodgson strives to say all the right things. Kassian has had some trouble on and off the ice with suspensions and an assault charge that required him to perform community service.

But Kassian had gone pointless in his first two games and Hodgson had gone plus-two as the Sabres blanked Anaheim and San Jose. It wasn’t looking good for Kassian early Saturday, because he was on the ice for two goals against as the Sabres took a 3-0 lead in the first 5:10 of the game.

But later, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault finally had enough with the unproductive Mason Raymond and moved him to the fourth line while bumping Kassian up to the second with veterans Ryan Kesler and David Booth. Something clicked. Kassian drew his first point as a Canuck as Booth put in his rebound. It was Booth’s second goal of the game. Then Kassian scored on a wrist shot from the slot to narrow Vancouver’s deficit to 4-3.

Alas, Kassian’s surge was not enough to bring the Canucks all the way back. But it was a good sign.

When all was said and done, Kassian outperformed Hodgson, who played well but went without a point. After a hectic week, it looks like Kassian is starting to fit in with the Canucks.

Time, of course, will be the ultimate judge. But there could soon be fewer gripes about the trading away of Hodgson.

Next up for the Canucks is a meeting with the visiting Dallas Stars on Tuesday.


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