Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canucks limp into town

Team's lost last 2, struggled to score

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SINCE there is no Jets 2.0 track record on which to base a theory about a Vancouver Canucks visit, pick whichever variable or unknown you please for tonight's game at the MTS Centre.

It's the Canucks' first visit to the home of the new Jets. They're the 29th and final opponent to show, a product of the NHL's old cross-conference setup that had teams playing one game per season, with 2011-12's in Vancouver, and last season's lockout mess erasing all cross-conference games.

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Now, after 93 NHL regular-season games played in Winnipeg and with the Jets and Canucks in the Western Conference after the 2013 realignment, the annual visits start tonight.

The Jets have lost both their games in Vancouver, including a 2-1 loss right before Christmas.

So while there's no history here, Jets forward Michael Frolik was sure on Thursday how he felt about playing the Canucks.

"It was a big rivalry against them always and I have to say I don't really like them," said Frolik, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks before being traded to the Jets last summer. "They are tough to play against and they're a hard team.

"I remember having some tough battles against them and those were always hard. But they've changed their coach and maybe play a little bit different."

The Jets, now 6-2 under new head coach Paul Maurice, are coming off the disappointment of Tuesday's 4-3 home-ice loss to Nashville that leaves them at 25-25-6, .500 once again.

Important

Those 55 points are eight fewer than Vancouver's 63, an important point given the Canucks occupied, as of Thursday, the eighth and final playoff berth in the conference.

And Vancouver hasn't exactly been lighting things up of late.

With head coach John Tortorella suspended until Saturday, the Canucks lost three of four on their just-completed homestand, including a 3-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday and 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

The injury-riddled team has just 18 goals in the last 10 games and five of those came in a win Sunday over Phoenix.

"If we're talking about style of play, there have been some changes," said Maurice, clearly choosing his words carefully about the Canucks. "I think they had a reputation of being a physical team, a team that wanted to play an aggressive style, which would have been fairly close to John's teams in Tampa and New York."

Maurice watched Wednesday's Hawks-Canucks telecast.

"A couple of good hockey teams," he said. "The specifics of what I saw from Vancouver, we'll try to hash that out (tonight). You see a team in Chicago that is absolutely so explosive. Even in our game (last Sunday), their game in Calgary, they're in that group, that San Jose, Anaheim kind of group. When they turn that thing on, you do everything you can and your goalie's going to have to be spectacular. They've got those kind of shooters.

"It's a mistake to look at that game and think that you're finding weaknesses in Vancouver's game because of what Chicago did to them."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2014 C2

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