Cracker crum­bles Sopel’s back

The Province - - Sports Hockey - BY BEN KUZMA SPORTS RE­PORTER

The Great Cracker Ca­per kept Brent Sopel from play­ing in the Van­cou­ver Canucks’ play­off opener on Wed­nes­day at GM Place.

“He picked up a cracker yes­ter­day [Tues­day] and his back blew out and just spasmed out,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.

Re­ally? Or is this just a lit­tle pre-play­off mind game by Vigneault to throw off the Dal­las Stars? “I swear,” added Vigneault. “He was try­ing to pick up a cracker and any­body who has had back prob­lems knows that can hap­pen.”

Sopel, ac­quired at the trade dead­line from Los An­ge­les, had five points (1-4) in 20 games with the Canucks and was a mi­nus-3. The Canucks will pair Rory Fitz­patrick with Lukas Kra­jicek in Sopel’s ab­sence and also ice the pair­ings of Wil­lie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa and Mat­tias Oh­lund with Sami Salo.

“I’ve seen post­sea­son ac­tion and I should feel com­fort­able out there be­cause I know what to ex­pect,” said Fitz­patrick, who ap­peared in 11 play­off games with Buf­falo last spring. “And from a per­sonal stand­point, now is the time to just play your game and not worry about any­thing out of your con­trol.”

Fitz­patrick had seven points (1-6) in 58 games this sea­son and was a plus-12 “He’s been re­ally solid through­out the year and any time we’ve kept Rory’s min­utes to around 1315 min­utes, he’s been fine,” said Vigneault.

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