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It wasn’t the homecoming Brendan Leipsic was hoping for, but the fifth-year pro still has a zeal for the game and a determination to earn regular work in the NHL.
On Thursday, with his Vancouver Canucks making their lone regular-season visit to Bell MTS Place, the 24-year-old Winnipegger was on the outside looking in again, spending extra time on ice during the morning skate with his fellow healthy scratches.
“Right now, I’m kinda waiting for my opportunity and working hard every day,” said Leipsic. “I’m trying to be ready when I get my chances. I’ve played three games, so I haven’t had a huge opportunity to show myself here but it’s a long season. Hopefully, I’ll get in at some point.”
Entering Thursday’s action, the 5-10, 179-pound left-winger had dressed for three of Vancouver’s six games, registering a game-winning goal for his lone point.
He’s starving for playing time now after a fine showing with the Canucks following a mid-season trade from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18. In 14 games with Vancouver last spring, he potted three goals and nine points.
In 44 games with Vegas before that, he had two goals and 13 points.
For a man on an expiring contract (he’s in the final year of two-year, US$1.3-million deal), time is of the essence. He played Vancouver’s first two games on the fourth line and got a brief shot playing with the club’s No. 1 unit with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat.
“Really they’re going with the lineup that they want,” said Leipsic. “I do everything I can in practice, work hard. Injuries happen, so whenever I get in, I thought I had a good camp and decent pre-season. I thought I played well when I had my chances but I just have to stay ready.
“It’s early in the season (and when) you’re playing on the fourth line, only eight minutes a game and then play on the first line for a short amount of time, it’s hard to get things going.”
Added Canucks head coach Travis Green: “Well, he hasn’t played much and he’s gotta wait for his opportunity. We saw what he can do last year and hopefully when he gets in, he’ll provide that.”
YOUTH BEING SERVED
The Jets have become even younger this season with the arrival of a 19-year-old Kristian Vesalainen and a 22-year-old Brendan Lemieux.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice was asked if those additions, combined with the departure of locker-room leader Matt Hendricks, who went to the Minnesota Wild via free agency, has resulted in a leadership vacuum.
“There’s two comments — the first one is we’re going to have to get used to it because it’s the way our team’s going to look, right?” said Maurice. “When you look at what some of these younger and older players are going to command in salary, we’re going to have a very young, entry-level, bottom part of our team. That’s just a fact.
“And Matty Perreault has filled in nicely, sometimes in French, sometimes in English. He’s the guy. And when that happens, though, Adam Lowry’s voice becomes more important in the room, and Mark Scheifele, some of those 25-, 26-year-old guys who might have been quiet early on.”
“I’m not expecting Vesalainen or (21-year-old Jack) Roslovic to be leading the cheer, but bringing energy on the ice when they play.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.