DENVER – Defenceman Keith Ballard was doing an interview in the middle of the Canuck dressing room after Sunday night’s 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche when goalie Roberto Luongo stopped by to have a listen.
“He was the best forward out there,” a smiling Luongo said.
He wasn’t being completely serious, but Ballard certainly does not look out of place patrolling the wing.
Sunday night, he skated on a line with Alex Burrows and Andrew Ebbett and drew the second assist on Burrows’ game-winning goal.
Ballard seems to be having a blast.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s just different, right. It’s a different challenge. You’ve got a bit different responsibility. I don’t know how long it’s for, but I am fine with it.”
Ballard was forced into offensive duty for the second time in the last three games due to a shoulder injury to winger Dale Weise.
“I feel fine, there’s a few tweaks here and there,” Ballard said of his comfort level on the wing. “There were a few times when it’s not a natural instinct as far as positioning. You have to take a step back and think about it a bit. I have been asking a lot of questions to Burr and Ebbie and those guys have been helping quite a bit.”
Ballard had four shots on goal and a team-high three hits in 12:48 of ice time Sunday night.
“I think the chances we got, it was nothing special,” Ballard said. “Burr made a nice move to get the goal, but aside from that it was forechecking, finishing checks and creating turnovers and going to the net. It was nothing fancy.”
Even coach Alain Vigneault, whose doghouse Ballard has spent considerable time in, liked what he saw.
“That line with Burr, Andrew and Keith was real good all night,” Vigneault said. “He’s a team guy, being versatile is a big plus for a player and he is able to play left wing. He did it two games and he did it real well for us in real tough environments and we’re really pleased with what he brought to the table.”
“It’s great to see guys stepping up,” added winger Mason Raymond. “Obviously, we have been hit with the injury bug . . .and Bally tonight played well again.”
STEPPING UP: Raymond also continues to play well. His goal Sunday night was his ninth of the season and Raymond is providing some of the secondary scoring that is vital for the Canucks as they battle through these injuries.
“We need that,” Vigneault said. “Right now with our lineup, if you are the opposition you know you have to pay attention to the (Sedin) twins and they do. They get the best checking or the best line and always the best D. That makes it really challenging for them so what you need is some other people to step up.”
Rookie Jordan Schroeder assisted on Raymond’s goal and now has points in four straight games.
SLING SHOT: It appears Weise will be out a while. He was seen wearing a sling after Sunday night’s game.
He suffered the injury on the final shift of Saturday’s game and the Canucks had initially described his status as day to day. But Vigneault acknowledged after Sunday’s game that “it’s going to be longer than that.”
CHANGE OF PACE: Burrows said he enjoyed going back to his roots Sunday night with new linemates in a different role than he has with the Sedin twins.
“Back where I came from, it is what I used to do,” he said. “I get in on the forecheck and create turnovers and it’s tough to do that when you play with the twins and we have the puck 90 per cent of the time.
“Sometimes to go back to the roots, it’s a different feel and I think Bally (Ballard) and I had a great game and made good plays and worked hard.”
A FREE MAN: Defenceman Alex Edler served the final game of his two-game suspension on Sunday night. Following Saturday night’s game in Los Angeles, Edler said he never intended to collide with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and defended his record as an honest player.
“Obviously I am disappointed I am suspended,” he said. “I had no intention of making any contact with the goalie. I was going for the puck. The decision is made now. I have to look forward.”
Edler said he is proud of the way he has played the game.
“I have been in the league for seven years and I think I have been a clean player,” he said. “I haven’t had a major penalty or anything.”
ICE CHIPS: Raymond scored the only goal in Vancouver’s 1-0 win in Los Angeles on Saturday. . .Schneider stopped 20 shots for his second shutout. . .Kings forward Jordan Nolan was fined $1,436.94 by the NHL on Sunday for cross-checking Henrik Sedin in the second period of that game. The fine, equal to one-half his daily salary, is the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. . .The Avs lost Paul Stastny to a foot injury after he blocked a Jason Garrison shot early in the first period. Defenceman Ryan Wilson went down with an ankle injury in the second period. . .Garrison’s first-period power-play goal came after the Canucks had scored on only one of their previous 46 attempts with the man advantage.