Canucks host Coyotes in Spooner's debut
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Ryan Spooner's redemption time begins Thursday night.
Spooner is expected to make his debut with the Vancouver Canucks (26-27-7, 59 points) as they host the Arizona Coyotes, as both clubs battle for a playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference. Simply put, Spooner is attempting to save his career after joining his third NHL team -- and fourth overall -- this season.
He began the campaign with the New York Rangers, was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and then demoted to their farm team in Bakersfield, Calif. Now, he finds himself with the Canucks after a weekend trade that sent Sam Gagner to Edmonton, but Spooner is still looking to rediscover the offensive prowess for which he was once known.
"A lot of things kind of run through the back of your mind," Spooner told reporters after his first practice with the Canucks this week. "One of the things is, like, 'Can I still play in the league?' I've always been the kind of guy who could put up points. For some reason, this year (the production) just hasn't been there. Back in my mind, I'm thinking: 'Is it because I'm not good enough to play here anymore?'
"At the same time, too, I know that I can play here. I know I have the speed and skill. I think for me it's more of a mental thing -- I just have to go out there and believe in myself."
Canucks general manager Jim Benning gambled that Spooner can produce with regularity again, taking on Spooner's two-year $8-million contract in the process. The Rangers will help out by contributing $900,000 this season.
Benning and Spooner know each other from their time together with the Boston Bruins. The GM showed faith in Spooner's offensive abilities by sending Gagner back to Edmonton, the team with which Gagne started his career, after placing him on loan to Toronto's AHL affiliate for most of the season.
Canucks coach Travis Green showed his faith in Spooner by placing him on Vancouver's top line with rookie phenom Elias Pettersson and sophomore sniper Brock Boeser in practice. Green also worked Spooner with the second power-play unit.
Spooner compiled 13 goals and 28 assists with the Rangers and Boston last season. But he managed to record only one goal and one assist with New York in 16 games this season, and he contributed just two goals and a helper in 25 games with the Oilers.
"He's going to have urgency in his game," Green told reporters. "I think he understands once you're down in the AHL, and you go through waivers, it is an eye-opener for players. We're probably going to get his best right away, and he's got to capitalize on that."
Spooner could help make up for the absence of Jake Virtanen, who is expected to miss a month with a fractured rib. The Canucks will also likely have a new face on defense after Ashton Sautner was promoted from Utica of the AHL to help make up for the absence of injured blueliners Alex Edler (concussion) and Chris Tanev (ankle). Fellow defenseman Guillaume Brisebois was returned to Utica.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes, who have won four of their past six games, hope to continue their playoff push against an injury-depleted Canucks squad that has just three wins in its past 10 games.
The Coyotes (27-28-5, 59 points) are coming off a 3-2 shootout victory in Edmonton. Arizona continues to get unexpected production from unheralded forward Josh Archibald, who scored against the Oilers and now has three goals in his past five games.
Until recently, Archibald had been used mostly in defensive roles with the Coyotes and Pittsburgh, while also spending considerable time in the minors. But the 2011 sixth-round pick, who joined the Coyotes organization in a December 2017 trade, is thriving in a first-line role after Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, a former Penguins assistant, felt confident in moving him up in the wake of injuries.
"If you look at all the injuries and who's benefited and elevated their games," Tocchet told the Arizona Republic, "... to me it's (Lawson) Crouse and Archibald. I've played them together for the last five or six weeks, and I've given them some tough assignments and played them against some star players.Whether it's Archie or Crouser, I've got to give them a lot of credit.
"That's why we picked up Archie. He's used to playing these big games and doing the right things."
Archibald, who now has a career-high 14 points, appreciates the promotion.
"It's always nice to get that bump up," he told the Republic. "I guess you can never really call it a one-through-four (line team) here because everyone plays with everybody."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 20, 2019
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Published: 2015-05-28 13:51:00
Updated: 2016-07-13 10:41:59
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