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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kassian has zero chance of escaping media spotlight

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Kassian says he wants to "fly under the radar" with the Vancouver Canucks.

Good luck with that.

Kassian's comment Tuesday, before his first game with the Canucks, drew chuckles from reporters, who know what kind of scrutiny he faces in Vancouver's hockey-mad market.

"It's an honour, it's a great opportunity at the start of my career to make a name for myself and to come into a great organization like Vancouver and where they sit in the standings and the opportunity they have in front of them," Kassian, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for Cody Hodgson on Monday, said before the Canucks faced the Phoenix Coyotes. "I just want to fly under the radar and do my job and work hard."

Told that may be difficult, Kassian smiled and reminded reporters that he does have some experience playing under the media spotlight.

"I think hockey players are used to pressure," he said. "I have been on world stages, the world junior, things like that, the Memorial Cup. Those are (pressure situations) and I think I handled them well. Like I said, I am ecstatic to be here and can't wait to get going."

The past 24 hours have been something of a blur for Kassian, 21, who was as surprised as many Canucks fans when he was acquired in what was the biggest deal of the NHL's trade deadline day.

"To be honest it's been a whirlwind 24 hours."

Kassian, who wore Hodgson's old No. 9 jersey, is being eased into the lineup. He was scheduled to skate on the fourth line Tuesday night alongside Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra.

The Canucks are counting on Kassian using his big body to give the team a more physical dimension. His six-foot-four, 225-pound frame, nice speed and a good skill set are what convinced general manager Mike Gillis to roll the dice on Monday.

When he's at his best, Kassian said he's "skating, being physical, protecting pucks, standing up for teammates, all those things. I try to bring a complete package."

His NHL resumé is short. In 27 NHL games with the Sabres this season, Kassian had three goals, seven points and 20 penalty minutes. He played 30 games with Rochester of the AHL before being called up and recorded 15 goals, 26 points and 31 penalty minutes.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault hopes to prepare Kassian for the playoffs.

"We have got 19 games left here so I am hoping that in these 19 games with the games he played in Buffalo, the experience he is going to get with our group, hopefully we can get him to a level where come playoffs he is going to be able to be a contributor with his skill set that he brings," Vigneault said.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 29, 2012 C2

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