THN.com Blog: Demitra goes from Canuck foe to friend

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

With the 2010 deadline providing more trade blahs than buzz, we decided to go outside the scope of swaps to discuss an addition that could pay dividends between now and the warm day when the Stanley Cup gets handed out.

Having Pavol Demitra in the lineup may not do much to address the fact the Vancouver Canucks need more help on the blueline than Andrew Alberts can provide, but nonetheless, it goes a long way toward giving Vancouver a top-six forward crew that should pretty much be the envy of the league.

The No. 1 line of Alex Burrows with the Sedins is the best in hockey. A second unit of Ryan Kesler between Demitra and Mason Raymond – between Kesler’s grit, Demitra’s playmaking and Raymond’s speed and finish – is a whole lot to handle for any team’s second defense pair.

Talented as he is, Demitra is one of those guys who can slip through the cracks a bit when talks about the league’s top players break out, mostly because he’s often hurt and – aside from 59 games with Ottawa in the mid-‘90s – has never played for an Eastern Conference team.

Canadians reflecting on the glow of their country’s golden triumph probably still get a smiley, “it was that close” headshake when they think of either, a) Zach Parise bagging the tying goal in the final with 24 seconds remaining or, b) Demitra very nearly chipping a puck over the arm of Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo in the dying semifinal seconds, a score that would have completed an incredible three-goal comeback by Slovakia – or collapse by Canada, depending on your perspective.

The fact Demitra led the Games in scoring with three goals and 10 points in seven outings offers some serious insight as to where his game is right now.

Take a peek back at the ringleaders in terms of Olympic scoring since the NHL began sending its players there and you’ll find names like Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.

Not bad company to keep.

Demitra joined Vancouver this season in mid-January after nursing a shoulder injury. He had just one assist through his first seven games, but in his past six NHL contests, the slick Slovak has posted two goals and five points, including appearances on the scoresheet in both of the Canucks’ post-Olympic matchups.

Demitra, especially at 35, is a tough guy to lay long-term hopes on because of the aforementioned injury troubles and the fact he can drift in and out of productive segments.

But at a two-week tournament – or, say, a three-month stretch of NHL hockey – he can create goals with the best of them.

That might not help Vancouver patch up a shoddy blueline, but it will certainly cause Canucks foes to spread their defensive resources a little thinner than they’d like.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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