Thursday, February 19, 2009
Point Shots: Burrows thriving while playing alongside Sedins
By Jim Wilkie
Special to ESPN.com
Playing in a contract year hasn't hurt, but Vancouver Canucks pest Alexandre Burrows doesn't need extra motivation after his rags-to-riches ride to the NHL.
Burrows has a career-high 13 goals, and with 25 games remaining, he is four assists and three points off the career bests that he set last season in those categories. Now skating on the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin while also playing a key role on the top penalty-killing unit and getting under opponents' skin, Burrows is primed to get a big raise from the $525,000 he will make this season.
"I never took anything for granted. I think that's the biggest thing," Burrows, 27, told the Vancouver Sun. "Some guys, once they hit this level, they take it for granted they are going to stick for a while or they have been drafted and they got that big signing bonus and they think everything is going to come easy.
"For me, I have always had to work really hard for everything, and that's why every time I step on the ice I try and work hard."
Quite an amazing story for the undrafted winger and "summer ball hockey" whiz who climbed his way up from the East Coast Hockey League.
"It was my dream to be an NHLer," Burrows told the Sun. "But when you're there [in the East Coast League]
there's never a scout in the stands, no one really following what's going on, and you realize, looking around and seeing all those 30-year-old guys who have been playing for seven or eight years and are still stuck there in the East Coast League, you realize that it might be tougher than you thought to get out."
After his regular linemate, Ryan Kesler, was moved to the second line and excelled alongside Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra, Burrows' hard-working, gritty style has fit in nicely with the Sedins for the past four games. Burrows has three assists in his past two games, and although he hasn't scored any goals, he has had a number of good scoring chances and is a plus-2.
Burrows gets little power-play time but has three short-handed goals this season -- two behind league-leader Mike Richards of the Flyers -- so he is a must-have player in any custom leagues that count "shorties." And, of course, his agitating style has produced 86 penalty minutes.
Owned in just 21.2 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Burrows is worth a look, especially with the Canucks' top two lines clicking and the team having played well of late (6-1 in their past seven games).
Sabres slip without Vanek
When Sabres scoring specialist Thomas Vanek returns from his jaw injury, it's unlikely he'll immediately be in the midseason form that saw him score 32 goals and record 52 points through the first 54 games.
Vanek has been on a liquid diet since surgery Feb. 8 to correct a fracture in his jaw, which he sustained when struck by a puck off the stick of Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov. "I hope I haven't lost too much of my fitness, but we'll see about that once I start skating again," Vanek wrote on his official Web site for fans in his native Austria, according to the Buffalo News. "The doctors said that I would miss at least four weeks altogether but it also could be five to six weeks. We'll just have to wait and see."
Vanek has begun riding a stationary bike at HSBC Arena with the team and will have his jaw braces loosened next week to get him off the liquid diet before eventually beginning light skating, according to the News.
Meanwhile, the Sabres have had mixed results getting other players to make up for Vanek's absence. Buffalo has had 10 goals in the four games since Vanek's injury, a significant drop from the three goals per game it had been averaging before the sharpshooter was hurt. However, Sabres center Tim Connolly remains on a point-per-game pace with 11 goals, 13 assists and a plus-5 through 24 games, and winger Drew Stafford has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists, plus-8) in 21 games since Jan. 1.
"We're going to need all the goals we can get. If that's what I'm going to be contributing, then so be it," Stafford told the News after he scored twice Tuesday in Buffalo's 4-1 victory over Toronto. "It's not going to happen every night, but we have a lot of guys who can do it in the scoring department. I'm just trying to do my part."
|The Sabres have struggled offensively since Thomas Vanek suffered a broken jaw.|
Bergeron bouncing back for Bruins
Patrice Bergeron has a goal and two assists and is a plus-1 in his past two games, leading to hopes that the Bruins center might have turned the corner on his comeback season after a career-threatening concussion more than a year ago.
"I've felt good the [previous] two games, too," Bergeron told the Boston Globe after his short-handed, empty-net goal helped Boston beat Carolina 5-1 on Tuesday night. "The puck just hasn't been going in for me."
Bergeron's fifth goal of the season was his first since Nov. 21, although some of that time included more than a month in which he was out after another concussion. Besides the scoring, Bergeron also was 9-for-18 on faceoffs, dished out some hard hits and played a gritty style that raises hope he is back to normal. "I think it's about confidence," Bergeron told the Globe. "It's just getting my timing and everything to come together. Missing the month [after sustaining the second concussion Dec. 20] set me back a little bit. I just wasn't myself. It takes awhile to get all the things back -- strength, hitting, focus, timing."
Bergeron's apparent breakout coincided with a minor shakeup in lines on the Bruins as he skated with Chuck Kobasew and P.J. Axelsson on the third line. Blake Wheeler moved up to join center Marc Savard and Milan Lucic on the first line, while Phil Kessel dropped down to the second line to play alongside center David Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka.
"Just a little bit of a mix," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Herald after practice Monday. "We haven't been scoring as much as we'd like lately. We've got some guys who are in scoring slumps right now. You move guys around and hope it will spark things a little bit."
Brodeur's road to recovery
Martin Brodeur, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon, plans to return Feb. 26 against the Avalanche, according to the Bergen Record, which cited Brodeur's weekly column for RueFrontenac.com.
"It all goes back to the 16-week thing. The first night when they told me about my arm, they said it was going to take four months. That date was always in my mind," Brodeur told the Record. "So when I talk about it, it's not necessarily a date. It's an area that I'm looking for more than a day in particular just because it's a Thursday and it's the 16-week mark to me."
The New York Post, however, credited an "impeccable source" as saying that game is out of the question, that Feb. 28 against the Panthers or March 1 against the Flyers is more likely.
Whatever game he ends up returning in, Brodeur's preparation has been slowed by New Jersey's lack of full practices.
Jim Wilkie is a former NHL editor and writer for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.