Naslund knows it's time to score but won't put pressure on himself - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Naslund knows it's time to score but won't put pressure on himself

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"I'm going to try to shoot the puck more," the Vancouver Canucks captain said Tuesday at training camp. "That's something that's achievable and I know if I do that, usually good things happen. That's what I did in the past."

The star winger will make US$6 million this season, the final year of his contract.

Naslund, who had 48 goals in 2002-03 to conclude a run of three straight 40-goal seasons, recorded just 24 goals last season, his lowest output since 1997-98. For the first time in eight seasons, he wasn't the team's top-scorer.

"I need to take the bulk of that load on my shoulders and try to have a good year," Naslund said of the upcoming season.

"I feel really relaxed," he added. "I know when I put too much pressure on myself it usually goes the other way. When I go with the flow and I'm just out there to have fun, that's usually when I play my best hockey."

Naslund's laser-like, quick-release wrist shot deserted him last season but he says there's nothing wrong with the mechanics of his shot.

"I wasn't shooting to score," said Naslund, who had 36 assists last season. "I was shooting to get pucks on net. It's a mindset. I'm not going to lose my shot over the summer. It's how you feel."

Naslund, who should play his 1,000th game this season, had his best years skating with the now-departed Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. These days, he's practising with centre Ryan Kesler and Taylor Pyatt.

Coach Alain Vigneault is looking for more chemistry to develop between Naslund and Kesler, who played together last season until Kesler needed hip surgery.

Morrison has compared Naslund to Teemu Selanne, who tailed off when he went to Colorado, then scored 48 goals last year for Anaheim.

"Nazzy definitely has it in him," Morrison said.

Although he still finished second to Daniel Sedin's 36 goals, Naslund believes he can still hit the 40-goal plateau.

He's not talking retirement but would like to avoid the shoulder problems he battled last season.

"For me, it's more reading my body and staying away from getting injured."

He still achieved milestones last year, eclipsing Trevor Linden as the franchise's all-time leading scorer with 321 goals.

His nine power-play goals gave him 105 for his Canucks career, four more than Toni Tanti who retired in 1990.

Last year also brought a new coach in Vigneault and a defence-first system. The team chemistry changed but Naslund says he's adapted.

"Just coming in with all the familiar faces and the system we have in place, it's a lot easier so I'm excited coming back and knowing what we're in for," he said.

But he doesn't want to speculate on how many times he'll score this season.

"It's so tough to predict because it all depends on how things work out," he said.

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