NHL

Canucks coach Desjardins again feeling heat after demoralizing road trip

The hot seat is nothing new for Willie Desjardins. The under-fire head coach of the Vancouver Canucks looked to be in trouble with his team mired in an ugly nine-game losing streak earlier this season before a subsequent 7-4-1 stretch cooled talk of his immediate job security.

Vancouver has just 5 regulation wins through 30 games this season

Head coach Willie Desjardins and his Vancouver Canucks are searching for answers as they sit second-last in the Pacific Division. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The hot seat is nothing new for Willie Desjardins.

The under-fire head coach of the Vancouver Canucks looked to be in trouble with his team mired in an ugly nine-game losing streak earlier this season before a subsequent 7-4-1 stretch cooled talk of his immediate job security.

But after a demoralizing 1-4-0 road trip culminated in Tuesday's stunning 8-6 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in which the Canucks led 5-2 heading into the third period, the pressure is back on.

"That was the same story a month ago," Desjardins said Thursday when asked how he's dealing with the situation. "Our focus a month ago was what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. Nothing's changed. That's the way you approach every game.

"I won't worry about [getting fired]. It's out of my control. Why worry about it?"

With the team sitting 28th in the overall standings, fans seething and plenty of talk in the local media about Desjardins' future, the players know it's on them to silence the critics.

"You hear different things, but we're a family in this room," said Canucks centre Bo Horvat. "Willie's been so great for me and for this team and for the organization. We want to play hard for him. We don't want to see anything happen."

Desjardins guided the Canucks (12-16-2) to a 101-point campaign in 2014-15, but the club slipped to 28th last season as it started to rebuild and has struggled most of this year with just five regulation wins through 30 games.

"We just feel pressure as a team overall," said defenceman Luca Sbisa. "Everyone's job is on the line. A player can get traded any day. Everyone is accountable. We're not looking for outside help.

"The quality's here. We just have to find a way to make it work."

Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said rebounding from that previous 0-8-1 slide served as an indication then the club still believed in Desjardins, and nothing has changed.

"It's not the first time we've faced that pressure this year," said Sedin. "It showed the last time around a couple weeks back when we came back and played really well that we enjoy playing for him."

Hurricanes' blowout latest misstep

But no one — not the coach or his players — had any answers during that meltdown in Carolina that saw the Canucks allow the Hurricanes to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 6-5 lead during a chaotic 4:40 stretch.

"To let it get away on us in the third was hard for everybody to take," said Desjardins. "That hurt us."

Mistakes were compounded by more mistakes and snowballed from there as seemingly simple plays turned into disasters.

"It was pretty deflating," said Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller. "The nature of hockey and the NHL is you pretty much more get defined by how you persevere, how you get up off the ground."

The Canucks will look to do that on Friday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (15-13-2) to open a four-game homestand that could go a long way in determining how the rest of the season unfolds.

"We're at a crucial time of the year where if you want to stick around and battle for a playoff spot, we've got to do it right now," said Sbisa. "A loss like that [in Carolina] kind of opens your eyes.

"It wasn't pretty to watch, it wasn't pretty to be a part of."

The lone bright spot of that road trip for Vancouver was a 5-1 triumph over Tampa Bay, but the Canucks know they will be in tough against a team that posted a 6-3 win in Calgary on Wednesday for just its second victory in nine.

"They'll be ready for us. They weren't happy with what had happened at home," said Desjardins. "We can't worry about what another team brings. We have to worry about what we bring and what we do.

"We have to recover."

Note: Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev, who has missed the last 20 games with a lower-body injury, is close to a return and could play Friday.

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