Times Colonist

Lapierre upping his game

- IAIN MACINTYRE

VANCOUVER — Until he came to the Vancouver Canucks, Max Lapierre didn’t need a costume for Halloween because he could always go out as a clown.

That’s harsh and a little unfair. But that was Lapierre’s reputation: an agitator who expended his energy after whistles and in his incessant desire to incite was about as likely to disrupt his own team as his opponents. Playing that way and getting dealt twice in two months, Lapierre had become a caricature of himself by the time the Vancouver Canucks tossed his National Hockey League career a lifeline with a deadline trade in February.

“I don’t think it was my last chance but it was a wake-up call,” Lapierre said Monday before the Canucks travelled to Calgary for a game tonight. “I had to play the way I can play. And this is the way I can play when I’m confident. At this stage of my career, I want to take a step forward and be better.”

Lapierre was among the best two or three Canucks in October, which was partly a reflection of how many teammates higher up the depth chart struggled, but mostly because the 26-year-old has refo- cused on being a player again. Lapierre still yaps at opponents and probably remains one of the most hated players in the NHL. But he picks his spots and saves his energy for when the puck is in play.

He has regained his confidence and some respect because he has played far better and more consistent­ly than almost anyone expected. Through 11 games, Lapierre has three goals and an assist and is plus-3. He’s skating better than he ever has and making plays with the puck. He’s averaging 11:32 of ice time.

“I’m a big Montreal Canadiens fan, so I’d seen him play on TV and stuff and I’d heard his reputation,” Canuck linemate Dale Weise said. “But I didn’t know what kind of player he was. He’s not your typical fourth-line player. “

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