VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins is imploring his team to keep going.
Losers of four straight and 12 of 15, the Canucks are just 9-10-8 so far in 2015-16 after topping the 100-point mark last season. Desjardins says staying the course with a system that has worked in the past is key, especially for a team that is 3-6-8 in games decided by one goal.
“It’s hard to believe sometimes that it’s going to turn around,” the coach said Friday after practice. “It’s like if you climbed a mountain and there’s fog at the top. You might be one step away when you quit. You don’t know. The only thing you know is you can’t quit.”
Desjardins showed more emotion than usual moments after the Canucks dropped a 4-2 decision to the Dallas Stars on Thursday in a game where Vancouver was outshot 34-16, including 18-6 in the second period.
“We need better performances,” he said at the time. “That’s not good enough.”
Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows said despite the results, there’s no disconnect between players and coaches in terms of what’s being asked.
“I think guys really believe in the structure,” said the veteran winger. “Sometimes when things aren’t going your way maybe you’re trying to cheat the system a little bit and trying to do things on your own. That’s the wrong thing.”
Vancouver has been hamstrung by a lack of secondary scoring and sloppy play at critical times.
The first line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen has 46 points over the last 12 games, but the rest of the forwards have combined for just 18 points over that span.
Henrik Sedin said the lack of chances coupled with the defensive zone breakdowns over the last six weeks are directly correlated.
“We have to realize we haven’t followed our system 100 per cent,” said the Vancouver captain. “Until we do that and play a 60-minute game where we do the right things it’s tough to tell where this team is.”
The loss of Brandon Sutter to an abdominal injury that will keep him out until January has hurt Vancouver’s attack, forcing second-year centre Bo Horvat and rookie Jared McCann further up the lineup. But the Canucks aren’t using that injury or anything else as an excuse.
“Adversity only makes you stronger,” said Burrows. “I’ve seen that throughout the years. It wasn’t always nice, but we found ways to get out of it and we got better. That’s the way we’ve got to approach it.”
The Canucks will try to take a step in the right direction on Saturday when they host Boston. Not many players remain on either roster from the 2011 Stanley Cup final, which the Bruins won in seven games, but it still means something to Vancouver’s veterans.
“Any time you face teams you’ve been up against in the playoffs late you get a little bit of rivalry,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s games you always get up for.”
Desjardins, in his second year behind the bench, said having Boston come to town could be that extra jolt his team needs.
“Those guys will always remember that series,” he said. “It could have gone their way with a couple different breaks. For us it’s good. There should be some emotion with it.”
Notes: Canucks rookie defenceman Ben Hutton declared himself fit to play after missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury. … Vancouver defencemen Luca Sbisa and Dan Hamhuis, and forward Brandon Prust missed practice. Desjardins said Hamhuis and Prust were out for maintenance days, while adding that Sbisa’s hand injury isn’t thought to be serious.
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