Pouliot faces former team as Canucks host Penguins
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VANCOUVER -- Derek Pouliot has a chance Saturday to show the Pittsburgh Penguins what they are missing out on.
Pouliot, now with the Vancouver Canucks (6-3-3), will play his first game against his former team as Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Penguins (9-4-0) make a rare visit to Rogers Arena.
Pouliot, 22, is getting playing time that he did not receive with the Penguins -- despite being chosen eighth overall by Pittsburgh in the 2012 National Hockey League entry draft. The defenseman was acquired Oct. 3 in a trade for fellow rearguard Andrey Pedan and a fourth-round draft choice.
Now, Pouliot has a chance to apply lessons learned with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
"You learn so much," Pouliot told Post Media this week. "The quality of players they have is just so good and they work so hard. Everybody was on board for the two Cup runs and just being around the winning environment and being able to experience that was invaluable for sure.
"They never got too low."
Canucks coach Travis Green, who also mentored Pouliot in junior with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, speaks highly of the young blueliner's potential.
"Derrick has quietly gone about his business and I see confidence creeping into his game," Green told Post Media. "I like it when I see him getting up the ice because he sees the ice well. And he has an offensive mind.
"But he is still finding his way."
Pouliot logged 18:05 on Wednesday in a 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, down slightly from his high of 19:18 in Boston. He is getting the chance that he rarely received with the Penguins, with whom he played 76 games while also toiling in their farm system and scored two goals. Known for being an offensive defenseman, he hopes to turn the red light on more often with the Canucks.
"It's a great style to play and a fun style, and it gives us more opportunities," he told Post Media. "It's a fit for me and it's the way the game is going. Teams have defensemen who are very active in the rush and trying to create that offence from the second wave."
But the Canucks have struggled to score lately, producing one goal or none in three of their past four games. Still, Green was not ready to read the riot act to his team.
"It's not a matter of just shooting pucks at the net and hoping they go in," Green told Post Media. "Shot attempts are a big factor in analytics. But scoring chances are one of the stats I look at.
"Not only have we done a good job generating attempts, but we've had a lot of scoring chances. When you combine those two numbers, that's important.
"We have to keep at it."
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, who is likely to start against the Canucks after being rested in a 2-1 loss to Calgary, will not be surprised if they attempt to get in his face. Murray, who has dealt with a concussion and other injuries in recent months has become used to contact.
"For the last couple years I've noticed that I get hit a lot, in the head especially," Murray told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week. "I think part of that is because I'm a bigger goalie, and I like to play over top of it. I like to really get my head forward.
"I definitely attack the puck more than other goalies do."
But he is intent on maintaining his style.
"You're sticking your neck out a little bit," Murray said. "'Physically, not metaphorically."
He is also determined to hold his ground when opponents crash his crease.
"You can't let it affect your positioning." Murray told the newspaper. "That's what they want when they're running you. They want to back you up and make you think about it.
"You have to be willing to take a hit. You have to be loose enough where you can take a hit, and it's not going to hurt you."
But all of his talk might be moot if the Canucks can't get their offense untracked.
Updated November 3, 2017