Rous­sel eager to help new team­mates

Skat­ing with top line in prac­tice, winger ap­pears set to make his Canucks de­but

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - PATRICK JOHN­STON pjohn­ston@post­media.com twit­ter.com/risin­gac­tion

SUN­RISE, FLA. There was no doubt­ing the ex­cite­ment and re­lief Brock Boeser felt when he scored against the Tampa Bay Light­ning on Thurs­day night.

The sopho­more winger roared af­ter rock­et­ing the puck past Tampa Bay goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy, putting the Canucks ahead 2-1 at 12:17 of the third pe­riod, 70 sec­onds af­ter team­mate Elias Pet­ters­son had tied the game.

He wasn’t alone in his ex­cite­ment. His team­mates were all thrilled. Boeser had fam­ily in at­ten­dance too, so you knew they were over­joyed when the goal trig­gered an of­fen­sive out­burst in a 4-1 Van­cou­ver vic­tory.

But one per­son may have been just as ex­cited about the goal as Boeser: An­toine Rous­sel.

Seated in the press box with the other Canucks scratches, there was no mis­tak­ing his cheer af­ter Boeser’s first goal of the sea­son.

“You al­ways want your team­mates to per­form. He’s a guy who has put a lot of pres­sure on him­self. You can tell,” Rous­sel said Fri­day af­ter the Canucks prac­tised at the BB&T Cen­ter in Sun­rise, Fla., ahead of to­day’s game against the Flor­ida Pan­thers.

He hasn’t played a game yet for his new team, but Rous­sel couldn’t deny the en­thu­si­asm he felt af­ter his team­mate fi­nally pot­ted a goal, par­tic­u­larly in such dra­matic fash­ion.

“He just wants to help the team. For him it’s scor­ing, but he does so many things,” Rous­sel said about Boeser. “You’ve just got to fo­cus on play­ing well ... don’t hold weight on your shoul­der.”

Since mak­ing his de­but for the Dal­las Stars in the 2012-13 sea­son, the 28-year-old Rous­sel has av­er­aged about two min­utes in penal­ties per game, but he’s also scored 64 times in that span.

Even if he’s not paid to score at the rate Boeser does, he knows what it means to go through a scor­ing slump.

“It sucks,” he said flatly. “It’s not fun. When the ball gets rolling, you’ve got to stop it pretty quick, or some­times your mind gets on it and it’s just not fun ... don’t try to get too emo­tional about (a scor­ing drought), just play your game, ev­ery­thing falls in or­der.”

At Fri­day ’s prac­tice, he skated on a line with Boeser and Bo Hor­vat.

He said he wasn’t sure when he’d make his sea­son de­but, but the signs are there it could come as soon as to­day.

“It’s get­ting closer for sure. It’s nice to get an­other good prac­tice with the guys, with full reps.”

The fact he was skat­ing with the team’s No. 1 cen­tre and No. 1 winger — apolo­gies to Elias Pet­ters­son, who has four goals in four games, but he’s still trail­ing Hor­vat and Bran­don Sut­ter in cen­tre ice time — was a big tell about where his coach thinks he may fit in when the time comes.

He was just about blown away af­ter get­ting to skate with the two young stars.

“Are you kid­ding me? Those are two great play­ers, but I don’t make the lines, I just go out there and have fun,” he said, again with a big smile.

Rous­sel was ef­fec­tive as a thir­dor fourth-line winger in Dal­las. His team got more shots on the other team’s net when he was on the ice than when he was off, al­ways a good sign.

And his scor­ing rate in those min­utes sug­gested he ac­tu­ally could be a solid sec­ond-line con­trib­u­tor.

So you can see why coach Travis Green was tak­ing a look at him in such a po­si­tion. Still, the Canucks’ bench boss played coy about his plans, re­ply­ing “we’ll see” when asked if Rous­sel might play to­day.

“Def­i­nitely feel­ing good and get­ting close,” Green said about how Rous­sel looked.

“Head in­juries are hard. You just don’t know. You want to be very care­ful with them. You un­der­stand what a dif­fi­cult in­jury that is.”

Rous­sel started the year on in­jured re­serve, and when he dresses, the Canucks will have to make a ros­ter de­ci­sion.

It’s most likely one of for­wards Tyler Motte or Bren­dan Leip­sic or de­fence­man Alex Biega will be placed on waivers to open up a spot for Rous­sel.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Canucks sniper Brock Boeser cel­e­brates his game-win­ning goal against the Light­ning with Sven Baertschi dur­ing the third pe­riod on Thurs­day night in Tampa, Fla. The Canucks won 4-1.

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