Canucks finally home after epic 14-game road trip, longest in NHL history

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

VANCOUVER, B.C. - There were days when Alex Burrows woke up wondering about more than just what city he was in.

"(It was also) which day it is, what time it is, where am I really," the Vancouver Canuck winger said.

The Canucks are home after 14 consecutive games on the road, the longest stretch in NHL history. They last faced an opponent in Vancouver on Jan. 27, and finally play their first home game in 44 days Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

But compiling an 8-5-1 record that included several comebacks while the 2010 Olympic Winter Games took over GM Place made the marathon easier, Burrows said after Friday's practice.

"We've got confidence we can score goals and come back in any game," said Burrows, who scored seven times on the trip but found himself dropped to the second line.

That's because Mikael Samuelsson, who scored 10 goals in the 14 games and has a career-high 28, is now playing on the top trio with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

The twins said Samuelsson, who played with them at the 2006 Olympics but was left off Sweden's 2010 team, is a good fit for them.

"It's fun now reading the Swedish papers ... for us who believe in him and think he should have been on the team," Daniel said.

Added Henrik, second in the scoring race and leading the NHL with 63 assists: "Mike wants to be involved and he wants the puck and that's good for us."

The Canucks' homecoming follows a journey which saw them visit nearly half the NHL's franchises in a trip that extended to balmy Florida from frigid Montreal.

While they were logging more than 20,000 kilometres through three time zones, their rink was set up as Canada Hockey Place and restored to GM Place when the Olympics ended.

Players talked of becoming closer before they left but coach Alain Vigneault wasn't sure that happened.

"You might become a little sick and tired of being with one another for that long," he said.

Vancouver left leading the Northwest Division and that's where they are today after the odyssey that was stretched to overtime and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in Wednesday's final game.

"Walking in here it doesn't seem like the same place," said centre Ryan Kesler, who helped the United States win a silver medal.

"You see all the Canuck stuff and during the Olympics there was none of that."

The Canucks were resilient away from home, coming back to win when trailing three times after 40 minutes in their last six games.

They also overhauled an 0-3 deficit to win 5-3 in Toronto on Jan. 30, their first away game.

Vancouver, which plays 10 of its next 15 games at home, leads the NHL with 10 comeback wins when trailing after two periods.

"That gives us confidence going into the playoffs," said Daniel Sedin.

"We showed a lot of character. It's a good feeling right now."

Vancouver was 4-4 in eight road games before the Olympic break and 4-1-1 in the six when the Games ended.

Kesler didn't mind going back on the road after the 3-2 overtime defeat to Canada in the gold medal game.

"It was a tough loss," said Kesler who had points in all but one of the 14 games. "It was good for me to just get out of the city and be with the guys."

The only Canuck with a familiar dressing room stall during the Olympics was Team Canada goalie Roberto Luongo.

"It looks really different from when I was here last," Luongo said.

"There was a lot of (Team Canada) red in here before. But it's great to be back and remember some of the good things that went on."

Luongo made sure Kesler saw his Olympic gold medal when the club was on the road.

Defenceman Kevin Bieksa, cleared to play after surgery to repair left ankle tendons severed by a skate cut Dec. 29, said the Vancouver dressing room has a different feel to it.

"You can just feel the winning attitude in here with Team Canada having our dressing room over the Olympics," Bieksa said. "It was a pretty special place for two weeks and we're hoping to make it a special place for us."

In addition to having new line combinations, the Canucks added defenceman Andrew Alberts in a trade deadline deal with Carolina.

Willie Mitchell, who normally plays against the opposition's top line, continues to struggle with post-concussion symptoms after being driven into the boards Jan. 16 by Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh.

Despite playing fewer games than the clubs ahead of them, the Canucks have the fourth-best home record in the Western Conference with 47 points in 31 games at GM Place.

"We've had some success here as a team," Luongo said. "Hopefully we haven't forgot what it's like to play here."

NOTES: The Canucks lost 3-1 to the Senators on Feb 4 ... they now play five home games in eight nights ... Calgary visits Sunday ... Vancouver now has the 10th best road record in the NHL.



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