Fourth Line Options

Thomas Drance
April 05 2012 01:31PM

With Zack Kassian injured and out of the lineup with the dreaded "upper-body injury," the Canucks called up hulking winger Byron Bitz from Chicago yesterday. Bitz impressed with his pugilism and surprising array of back-hand saucer passes during his eight game call up earlier this season and he'll find himself back in the Canucks lineup tonight. Observers have long expected that Bitz would join the team for the postseason, and now that he has, it'll be very interesting to see how Vigneault handles his fourth line personnel.

Clearly, Gillis prioritized beefing up the fourth line over the past ten months, and while a rash of injuries to the likes of Aaron Volpatti and Steve Pinnozotto derailed that plan somewhat, the team has inarguably shored up the quality of their depth forward group. Between Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre, Zack Kassian (assuming his injury is relatively minor), Byron Bitz, Dale Weise and Andrew Ebbett, the Canucks boast a reasonably impressive stable of forwards who can successfully fill in on the fourth line. It's a bonanza of depth compared to the meagre offerings the team boasted last season when Vigneault's options were limited to the likes of a raw Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich, Jeff "the backchecker" Tambellini, Tanner Glass, a wounded Manny Malhotra in the finals, and Alexandre Bolduc's bionic shoulder. 

Read past the jump for more!

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Is Raymond Qualified, to be Qualified?

Thomas Drance
April 03 2012 02:53PM


Mason Raymond hasn't been able to find his form this season, and time is running out.

Needless to say, Mason Raymond is not having a particularly good season. Leading up his benching on Saturday against Calgary, Raymond has struggled to drive possession (like he was able to do in the past several seasons), his defensive game has fallen off significantly, and to top it off, he's benefitting from the on-ice bounces and still can't seem to bury his chances. What's worse, quickly glancing over how Raymond's presence impacts his most frequent line-mates (and in particular Ryan Kesler), reveals that Raymond's presence in the top-six may be a drag on the performance of his team-mates.

The Canucks are going to need Raymond's speed in any run they may make deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so they need him to find his game. In fact, so much of the way they've handled him of late, he's spent six of the past ten games on the team's top-line for example, strikes me as an effort to rebuild his confidence. Hopefully that effort pays off, because Raymond's contract expires at the end of this season, and if he doesn't pick it up in the postseason, then common sense dictates that the speedy forward will be in serious danger of not even being qualified by the team. 

Read on past the jump!

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Vigneault's Defensive Shell

Thomas Drance
April 03 2012 01:06PM

 
It's hard to "lose the room" when you have sweet Ninja Skills.
Photoshop work courtesy sworn enemy Harrison Mooney.

Several weeks ago, Canucks fans were lamenting the hockey club's lack of effort. A hypothesis emerged that held that the team, content with a second place finish in the West, had activated "Operation Don't Get Hurt," and there was a fair bit of convincing evidence that this was, in fact, the case. Of course, the Canucks then showed up to play for real in Chicago, Daniel Sedin was knocked out of the lineup by probably the single dirtiest cheap-shot of this past NHL season, and though the Canucks went on to lose that game in overtime - a fire seemed to be lit under the respective posteriors of the team. Since then the Canucks have reeled off six straight wins on the back of stellar goaltending, and suffocating defense.

Read on past the jump!

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Headshots April 2nd

Thomas Drance
April 02 2012 03:53PM

 
Oh my goodness, it's the Bruins hat that caused 50k page views for Postmedia News today.

Headshots are a Canucks Army feature where we link to the day's freshest news, and other assorted Canucks web-goodies. If you've written a blogpost, produced a tribute video or birthed a clever .gif into existence - please e-mail Thom at thom.drance@gmail.com.

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Why Canucks Army and The Fan Zoo are giving away a Chris Higgins autographed jersey

Thomas Drance
April 02 2012 02:02PM

 
Hey that's a pretty sweet jersey, right?

Do you think you've got a high adjusted Corsi number, and want to show it off to the world? What better way to do that then by wearing a Chris Higgins jersey, signed by the play driving ab-master himself. Courtesy of the good folks at The Fan Zoo, the Official Memorabilia Partner of the Vancouver Canucks, we're giving one away, and just in time for the postseason! 

Click past the jump to find out how to enter the draw, and why we're giving away a Chris Higgins jersey!

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