VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks’ second line may be in serious disarray, but at least they’ve managed to plug the hole in their top power-play unit.
The Canucks will put Danish right-wing Jannik Hansen on the top unit with twin Swedish stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin to start the season. Hansen will fill in for second-line winger David Booth, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks because of a groin injury diagnosed during physical testing on Sunday.
Booth logged a lot of time on a Vancouver power play that converted 19.8 per cent of their power-play chances last season, good for fourth in the NHL. That figure dipped to 14.3 per cent in the post-season.
Hansen won the power-play job after the Canucks experimented with a number of combinations during Wednesday’s practice. The 26-year-old has yet to score a power-play goal in 271 NHL games, but he is coming off a solid 20-game spell with Finnish club Tappara Tampere. He finished with seven goals and 17 points and, most importantly, received valuable time on the ice when his team had the man advantage.
“It’s nice to get the opportunity,” he said. “I mean every player wants to get an opportunity and it’s up to the player to prove that they belong there.
“This is a very competitive team and we strive to be if not the best then one of the best teams in the league every year and if we want to be there, we need guys stepping up and maybe playing a little bit out of their comfort zone, especially in a time like this (with injuries).”
Team captain Henrik Sedin feels his team still has plenty of options on the power-play, including Hansen, despite the absences of Booth and second-line centre Ryan Kesler.
“I always thought (Jannik) was very underrated as an offensive player,” Sedin said. “He can make things happen out there, he’s got a great shot and is a good skater … so hopefully he can be a good option for us.
“We know what we can do (on the power-play), I feel very confident with the group we have and we know (the first unit) has to be a key part of it. If you look at our power-play the last couple of years, it’s been up there so I think we should feel good about ourselves.”
Hansen — a hard-working third-liner who recorded 16 goals and 23 assists in 82 regular season games in 2011-12 — was grateful for the support of the Sedin twins.
“Obviously it’s nice to know that they believe in me and want me out there with them,” he said. “But again, it’s a matter of me proving that I belong there and nothing is a given.
“I always put pressure on myself, I try to improve myself everyday and obviously this is a new thing for me so I’ll do my best and see where it goes.”
Hansen said his job was to create space for the Sedins as well as to get in front of the net, saying “you can’t be afraid to get hit by a puck.”
“We were looking at different options there but Jannik does make a lot of sense,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. “Throughout the years at different times we have used him with the twins. It has worked out for us and on the power-play, Jannik has got more skill than people give him credit for and I also think he doesn’t mind going to those tough areas.
“He’s a real solid net presence and the fact he’s a right-handed shot, that helps the power-play.”
Vigneault says a pair of intra-squad scrimmages open to the public before the season starts will help create a game-like atmosphere for his team ahead of Saturday night’s season opener against the Anaheim Ducks.
“They’ve got to play hard and play smart and that’s what I expect from our guys,” he said. “I want them to play the way they’re supposed to play.”
Added Henrik Sedin: “It’s going to be full-on. You might not see a guy coming down and hit someone else from behind, but there’s going to be intensity. You’ve got to be sharp out there and you can’t make plays that you’re not going to do when the season starts, that’s what we’re hoping for.”