VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Canucks coach Alain Vigneault thinks Kyle Wellwood may have gotten a wake up call when he was sent to the minor leagues 2 1/2 weeks ago.
Wellwood says it was more of a much-needed break.
Whatever the reason, after battling injury and fitness issues for the last two seasons Wellwood is making the most of his latest chance to stay in the NHL.
He scored twice -- his fifth and six goals in seven games since the demotion -- and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves for his third shutout of the season, leading the Canucks to a 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
"There's lots of personal goals you have and playing in the NHL is the main one and that's my focus," Wellwood said. "I'm going to keep competing for a job here."
It looked like he'd lost it earlier this season.
Criticized by Vigneault for a failed preseason fitness test after battling sports hernia surgery and a broken foot over the summer, Wellwood was placed on waivers but never actually made it to Vancouver's AHL affiliate. He was recalled two days later after Pavol Demitra broke rib cartilage during an Oct. 19 game, but again had to clear waivers.
"All the NHL teams had a grab at him going down and coming up and nobody did," said Vigneault. "I don't know if that was a wakeup call for him or not, all I know is he's really grabbed this opportunity and he's helping us win games."
Wellwood, claimed by the Canucks off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer, says the break between being sent down and called back up helped to re-energize him after spending most of his summer trying to get in shape.
"I was pretty tired out from all the training and extra things I had to do to just get a chance to play again," said Wellwood, who arrived in Vancouver in June to begin training. "Doing all that was a lot of work and I got a couple of days off and I felt good again."
It's showing on the ice. He opened the scoring on a power play midway through the second period, and Mason Raymond doubled the lead with a man-advantage goal of his own 5:36 into the third. Wellwood added his second after a pretty deke in tight 59 seconds later as the Canucks won for the third time in the last four games.
Dan Ellis, back in goal after a strained back forced him to watch backup Pekka Rinne the last two games, made 35 saves for the Predators, who failed to record at least a point for the first time in five games. Nashville fell to 1-4-1 away from home as they kicked off a six-game, 13-day, 6,400-mile road trip.
"There is a home ice advantage, no question, everything from match ups to usually energy," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "We've got to play a little grittier, harder game with a little more pace and pressure [on the road]."
Daniel Sedin set up the first goal with a spinning pass to Wellwood in the corner that created a quick 2-on-0 with Henrik Sedin walking out just above the goal line. Wellwood's backhand was stopped, but with Ellis pulled off the post he fought through the ensuing scramble to bang the loose puck into an empty net.
Wellwood added his second off a scrambled draw in the offensive zone, scooping up the loose puck just inside the faceoff circle and skating in alone on Ellis before finishing with a couple of quick moves and a perfect shot over his glove.
Luongo came into the game with a pedestrian .899 save percentage and 2.99 goals-against average -- both well off his career numbers -- but now has shutouts in two of his last four games after a 4-0 blanking in Los Angeles last Thursday.
Barry Trotz coached his 750th game, all with Nashville, becoming the 31st NHL coach to reach that milestone and just the 10th to do so with the same team. ... Vancouver D Shane O'Brien and Nashville C Nick Tarnasky, teammates in Tampa Bay last season before both were traded just before this season started, had a spirited fight midway through the second period. ... Nashville RW J.P. Dumont had his seven-game point streak snapped at two goals and seven assists.