Kesler could be in ornery mood when he faces his for­mer club

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - BEN KUZMA

With­out a goal in their last two out­ings — and the well-trav­elled Jussi Joki­nen pro­vid­ing the only scor­ing from a for­ward in four straight losses — you have to won­der when the Canucks will score again and if any for­ward will find the net tonight in Ana­heim. The best bet might be Daniel Sedin. He has 21 goals, had three shots, four at­tempts and was robbed of a sure goal Mon­day in a 3-0 loss at Los An­ge­les. The Canucks had 35 shots. They had three power plays.


Hor­vat ver­sus Kesler

An ag­i­tated Ryan Kesler is a good Kesler. The shut­down cen­tre is grind­ing it out through hip pain from an­other off-sea­son procedure and that alone will make him ornery. Toss in fac­ing his for­mer club, not gen­er­at­ing a shot Mon­day in a 4-2 loss to St. Louis to lose ground in pur­suit of a play­off po­si­tion and he might even fight again. He dropped the gloves March 8 in a long-stand­ing feud with Ryan Jo­hansen. He even went af­ter Jonathan Toews on March 4. Not sure he has an axe to grind with Bo Hor­vat, but a prime-time matchup could bring out the best in the fu­ture cap­tain. He earned his stripes by be­ing good de­fen­sively, good in the cir­cle and good in tran­si­tion. And with­out a goal in five games, Kesler could be the com­pet­i­tive tonic to get Hor­vat go­ing of­fen­sively.


1. Cap­tain must lead by ex­am­ple

Hen­rik Sedin was as frank as a slap in the face Mon­day. He called out the club’s bat­tle level and owned it from his own com­pet­i­tive per­spec­tive. He was asked to lead. He logged 17:47 against the Kings and had noth­ing to show for it of­fen­sively. “Travis (Green) gave our line the chance to get some­thing go­ing and maybe win the game, but we didn’t step up,” said the cap­tain. “It’s go­ing to fall on the guys who need to pro­duce. I don’t care who gets the goals. You want to see the bat­tle level that needs to be there ev­ery night. I be­lieve we could have had more guys do­ing that.”


Lit­tle mis­takes are big trou­ble At least they’re not bor­ing. The in­jury-rid­dled club is still try­ing to push the pace with few bul­lets in the cham­ber. They still ac­ti­vate the de­fence, they want out­manned sit­u­a­tions mov­ing up ice and can live with a high-risk, high-re­ward the­ory. How­ever, when Ben Hut­ton is caught in a pinch and Der­rick Pouliot is re­treat­ing in vain in a failed at­tempt to stop a Tyler Tof­foli break­away goal in a loss to Los An­ge­les, it speaks to a mi­nus­cule mar­gin of er­ror for the club.


Tanev rid­ing to the res­cue? The Canucks were off Tues­day and could wel­come Chris Tanev back tonight. He has missed 15 games with a mi­cro-frac­ture to his leg and wants back in the fight. That’s good. His smart reads, po­si­tion­ing and abil­ity to quickly move pucks up ice are vi­tal if the Canucks ex­pect to up­set the Ducks. “He’s pos­si­ble,” said Green. “He wants to play and I want him to play. I want him to end this sea­son play­ing some good hockey down the stretch and be ready to come back. We miss him dras­ti­cally.”


Daniel sees a sil­ver lin­ing Daniel Sedin’s cri­tiques usu­ally re­volve around mis­takes. And if you want a read on what the Sedins might be think­ing about their play­ing fu­tures, lis­ten to the winger, who had a run of six goals in five games end March 5. “A few games, it’s been a mis­take here or there,” he said. “That’s easy to cor­rect. It’s tougher when you have four or five things go­ing wrong.”


Gag­ner sees the frus­tra­tion Sam Gag­ner is sup­posed to be con­trib­u­tor, not a leader. He had a glo­ri­ous chance Mon­day that sailed high and wide of an open net and has gone 21 games with­out a goal. He had 18 goals last sea­son in Colum­bus, but only seven in 2017-18.

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