Goldobin put in ef­fort to get back on ice

Winger is re­united with Pet­ters­son Satur­day af­ter be­ing a healthy scratch for four games

The Province - - SPORTS - BEN KUZMA [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/benkuzma

DEN­VER — Niko­lay Goldobin has watched more game film than Net­flix.

In re­claim­ing his ros­ter spot, the mer­cu­rial Van­cou­ver Canucks winger put down the pop­corn and picked up on his short­com­ings to earn the trust of coach Travis Green.

Af­ter sit­ting out four con­sec­u­tive games and six of the last nine, he was re­united with Elias Pet­ters­son and Brock Boeser on Satur­day while Markus Granlund was scratched.

And if you think the Canucks are sim­ply show­cas­ing the re­stricted free agent in ad­vance of the Feb. 25 trade dead­line, think again.

“That’s not the case,” in­sisted gen­eral man­ager Jim Ben­ning. “He’s a good kid and wants to do well and he’s pro­gress­ing to get bet­ter and that’s part of de­vel­op­ment. It’s also the skill set that makes it worth our time to get that out of him.

“We’re go­ing to con­tinue to work with him and hope that he can get to where he needs to be.

“I’m hop­ing he’s go­ing to be hun­gry to do the things he’s ca­pa­ble of and the things he’s been work­ing on. When he’s on, he has good chem­istry with Petey. With young play­ers it’s more about con­sis­tency and we need that ev­ery night. He’s just go­ing through a learn­ing process.”

What the Canucks have learned is the 23-year-old re­stricted free agent has had his mo­ments — seven points (1-6) in a seven-game stretch in late Oc­to­ber and a Novem­ber to re­mem­ber by start­ing the month with 11 points (3-8) in 10 games. He has also gone 13 games with­out scor­ing and his play with­out the puck was wan­ing.

So af­ter in­struc­tion on the ice and in the film room, where is Goldobin at?

“I couldn’t wait to get back on the ice, es­pe­cially af­ter the break, and I’m ex­cited to go,” said Goldobin. “I’ve learned cer­tain things and ev­ery­one knows what it is. I think I’ve im­proved and we’ll see. It was ob­vi­ously frus­trat­ing that I wasn’t play­ing, but I’m glad to be back. I know they (man­age­ment) be­lieve in me and I’m try­ing to do my best and help the team make the play­offs.

“I don’t think a lot of peo­ple be­lieve in us, but we have a good shot.”

Goldobin is an ef­fort­less skater and that can lead to the per­cep­tion that he’s glid­ing more than go­ing full out. And when he isn’t ag­gres­sive on the forecheck to go af­ter pucks and cre­ate turnovers — or hus­tling back in sup­port to en­sure he’s got his check — he can be­come a po­lar­iz­ing player.

Goldobin does things you can’t teach thanks to his natu- ral of­fen­sive tal­ent. He was still tied for third on the club with 18 as­sists and fourth in points with 23 head­ing into Satur­day’s meet­ing with the Colorado Avalanche. Part of that is a pen­chant to de­fer to Pet­ters­son and part of that is still find­ing his way.

“We’re kind of sim­i­lar play­ers and he’s super skilled, so I thought we had chem­istry to start the year,” Goldobin said of Pet­ters­son. “Thirty games left and ev­ery one is like a play­off game.”

Green isn’t into head games. He’s into get­ting the best out of ev­ery player and en­sur­ing they un­der­stand the collective goal of be­ing play­ers you can win with. And that’s where he’s at with Goldobin.

If there was no up­side, there might be trade de­bate. Now, there’s cu­rios­ity about whether he can rekin­dle his of­fence through bet­ter and stronger puck pos­ses­sion and de­velop con­sis­tency in all facets of his game.

What does Green need to see?

“A lit­tle quicker get­ting to places and a lit­tle stronger in his one-on-one bat­tles — even when he has the pu ck ,” said the coach. “Be­ing able to get away from some­one when you have the pu ck in the cor­ner. At this time of the year, the game tight­ens up so you’ve got to fight for space.

“He’s got a lot of at­tributes that we need at this time of year. He can make plays through the neu­tral zone and of­fen­sive zone and I want Goldy to play well. Not just for him, but for us. It’s con­fi­dence and he’s gone through a tough stretch and we’ve been open and hon­est with him. It’s not scold­ing. It’s talk­ing and want­ing him to do it for him­self and the team.”

It also means Goldobin’s line must press the is­sue more to re­trieve the puck be­fore do­ing some­thing with it.

“They’re creat­ing of­fence and the one thing we need from that line is to not just be a rush line.” Green said. “I want them to be a rush line and make good plays, but they’ve got to get the puck back as well.”

— THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Canucks winger Niko­lay Goldobin, here bat­tling Montreal’s Kenny Agostino ear­lier this sea­son, has had a streaky cam­paign, start­ing hot be­fore go­ing ice cold over a 13-game stretch and earn­ing time in the press box.

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