Canucks' Baertschi responds well to tough love

It was a move Sven Baertschi didn't like much at the time, but one the Vancouver Canucks winger says probably did him a whole lot of good.

Winger has 11 points in 10 games since being a healthy scratch

Vancouver's Sven Baertschi, pictured scoring against Winnipeg last month, has been much improved since being benched last month. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

It was a move Sven Baertschi didn't like much at the time, but one the Vancouver Canucks winger says probably did him a whole lot of good.

After finishing an ugly minus-3 with no shots on goal in a 4-2 defeat at Florida last month, head coach Willie Desjardins plunked the talented winger in the press box the following night to give him some perspective.

The Canucks went on to lose that one 3-0 in Washington, but going from the second line to a healthy scratch opened Baertschi's eyes.

"Coming back after that I had a bit of attitude in my game because no one wants to sit out," said the 24-year-old. "I felt like I was letting the team down there. I came back after and started playing really well."

The Swiss forward responded with a goal and an assist in Vancouver's next outing, and has six goals and five assists in 10 games since his return to the lineup. All told, Baertschi has 10 goals and 12 assists in 36 games after putting up 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 69 games in his first full NHL season.

'Playing with confidence'

"I think our team game overall has been really good and it's been helping me," said Baertschi, who was acquired from Calgary for a second-round pick at the 2015 trade deadline. "I've just been trying to feed off that and am obviously playing with some confidence right now."

The Canucks (18-18-3) have won four straight for the first time since opening the season 4-0-0 and are 6-2-1 over their last nine thanks in part to Baertschi's revival.

"As soon as that happened he's taken off again," said linemate Bo Horvat, who is tied for the team lead with 26 points. "I think he had something to prove. He was playing well before that too — maybe a few rough games here and there.

"He came back and he's been playing some of the best hockey I've seen him play."

It wasn't that Baertschi was performing poorly in the lead-up to getting scratched — he was pointless in three straight but had scored in two out of the previous three — it was that Desjardins noticed some of the trends that led to a slow start last season start to creep back into his game.

"I didn't take him out of the lineup because I didn't think he was a good player," said Desjardins. "I never thought that. I've always said he's a good player. He's got good skill."

Desjardins put Baertschi right back in the lineup and actually doubled down by placing him on the left point of the top power-play unit with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Within point of wild-card spot

Baertschi scored twice in Monday's 3-2 victory over Colorado, including the winner on a late man advantage, a result that brought the Canucks to within a point of the Western Conference's second wild-card spot heading into Tuesday's action.

"I'm getting lots of shots and I get to feel the puck a lot," Baertschi said of his time on the power play. "It's just understanding where to go and finding the open ice."

Another key for Vancouver in recent weeks has been getting the club's top-2 defencemen back in the lineup. Christopher Tanev returned nine games ago after missing 19 straight with an ankle injury, while Alexander Edler has suited up for the last four following a 13-game absence with a broken finger.

The Canucks host lowly Arizona on Wednesday before welcoming Calgary, which occupies the West's first wild-card berth, on Friday in the front end of a back-to-back as they look to continue their post-Christmas surge.

"We talked about each guy being just five per cent better," said Daniel Sedin. "That's all it takes for us to be a good team in this league. When we take that five per cent off, I think we are an average team.

"That's been our mindset every game, to be there for each other and really buy into our system and for our team."


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