Realignment takes toll on Canucks

Canucks centre Mike Santorelli (25) attempts a shot against the Ducks during NHL action in Anaheim...

Canucks centre Mike Santorelli (25) attempts a shot against the Ducks during NHL action in Anaheim earlier this season. (Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:13 PM ET

VANCOUVER - At the quarter mark to their season, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in the middle of the pack. And considering the campaign they've had so far — a seemingly successful one currently at four games above .500 — it may be a surprising revelation to some.

But that's the new NHL realignment for you. It's not a cake walk through the division for Vancouver anymore.

The Canucks, with an 11-7-2 record, are fourth in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference, a much different feel than the prior seasons of dominating a weak five-team group in the Northwest.

Every game in the regular season counts, which the team is quickly learning.

"For us it's about the way we play and that's all we got to worry about," Daniel Sedin said Wednesday. "Our division and conference is tough, we've seen that so far. Our record is pretty decent and we're hanging in eighth spot there.

"Every game is going to matter from here on end and that's the way it should be."

For some players though, they aren't even looking at the standings.

"It's too early for that kind of stuff," said goalie Roberto Luongo, looking to rebound after being pulled for the first time this season during last Saturday's game against Los Angeles. "You can get overwhelmed with things like that. If you do your job every night, that will take care of itself at the end of the day. You don't want that in the back of your mind and distract what you're trying to do."

The Canucks have put together some solid stretches this year — most notably the seven-game road trip where they went 5-1-1 — and have shown signs of being that formidable squad able to beat any team in the league.

But consistency remains an issue, as does depth especially with the constant string of injuries. The biggest flaw so far remains their power play.

The team is ranked 28th in the league with an efficiency of 9.7%. They have just two goals on their last 28 man advantage opportunities, but it's not from a lack of chances. During that span, they have also put 51 shots on net during the power play — an area which they continued to work on at Wednesday's practice.

"We're getting the shots, it's a matter of putting it in the back of the net," Sedin said. "We had two days off, it's going to be a fresh start tomorrow and we've done a lot of good things on the power play … but we need to get some goals."

The Canucks do have the schedule in their favour now, as they get set to start a stretch in which 11 of the next 15 games are at Rogers Arena. That begins Thursday against the San Jose Sharks, which also kicks off a six-game homestand.

It'll mark the eighth time in the last 25 games — playoffs included — that the Canucks are facing the Sharks. They finally beat them last Thursday in a 4-2 victory in San Jose.

"I love the Sharks," defenceman Kevin Bieksa said with a grin. "It brings out the best in our team. Last game (against them) was our best game of the season in my opinion, from start to finish."


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