Signed for his offence, Loui Eriksson finds himself fighting for ice-time on improved Canucks' 4th line
34-year-old Swede has played in just 6 of Vancouver's 1st 15 games so far this season
It was a typical thing to happen to Loui Eriksson.
After sitting in the press box for nine games, the left winger was inserted back in the Vancouver Canucks' lineup for a recent match against the Florida Panthers. Just over four minutes into the game Eriksson was credited with an assist on a goal by Tim Schaller.
The next day the assist was taken away.
Some players might have argued. Others would have fumed. Eriksson shrugged.
"Honestly, I thought it was honest," he said. "After looking at the replay ... there shouldn't be an assist there."
Talking about Eriksson can generate teeth grinding among Canucks fans. For many he's the poster boy for general manager Jim Benning over-paying under-producing players.
The 34-year-old Swede is in the fourth year of a six-year, $36-million US contact. He's the highest-paid Canuck forward and the only player on the team not to have registered a point this season.
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"It's always nice to get points," Eriksson said. "I just have to keep working at it and hopefully something will come."
Eriksson was signed as a free agent in July 2016 after scoring 30 goals and adding 33 assists the previous season with the Boston Bruins. The only other time in his career where Eriksson scored 30 or more goals was in 2008-2009 with Dallas, when he had 36 goals and 63 points.
There were high hopes Eriksson would bring goal production to Vancouver. But in 202 games in a Canucks uniform Eriksson has contributed 32 goals and 44 assists. His best season was last year when he had 11 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.
There was speculation Benning would try to deal Eriksson over the summer, but he remains a Canuck.
"I try to shut that out," Eriksson said. "I don't really listen to what goes on behind the scene. I know it's part of the game."
After appearing opening night, Eriksson sat until the Oct. 28 game against Florida. An injury to Tyler Motte meant he drew onto the fourth line.
"Of course, it's not fun to sit there and watch the games," he said. "The team has been playing really well. It's tough to change the lineup when the team is doing so good.
"All I can do is try to be in shape and work hard in practice. There are a few things that need to improve. Finally, I get the chance to play again."
There was some rust to shake off.
"The legs were a little bit tired in the beginning," he said. "After that it's been feeling better and better."
Eriksson's ego hasn't seemed to be dented over being demoted to a checking line with Schaller and Jay Beagle.
"That's how I started my career, playing on the fourth line and the third line," he said. "I learned a lot from that when I started in Dallas playing that role.
"I have been in the league for a long time. I have played different styles of games. With that role you don't really need to think that much. You just go out, try to skate and be good on the forecheck."
Eriksson might not be a fan favourite, but he has the respect of his teammates.
"He's a smart player," Schaller said. "He's been around long enough to know what role he is playing night in and night out. He's scored a lot of goals. Now he's playing a little bit different role."
Captain Bo Horvat describes Eriksson as "very humble and quiet" but "a great pro."
"He comes in and works every day," Horvat said. "He doesn't get down on himself or on other teammates or pouts. No matter what line he's on, or what roles he in, he seems to want to get better."
Head coach Travis Green has been satisfied with Eriksson's effort.
'He's buying in'
"He's skating, he's buying in, working hard on that line," Green said. "If you want to play with Beagle and Schaller, you have to move your feet. He's smart enough to read the play as well."
Eriksson was chosen 33rd overall by the Stars in the 2003 draft. He played in Sweden for two years before spending the 2005-06 season in the American Hockey League.
In his NHL debut Eriksson scored a goal in a 3-2 win over Colorado. He played 59 games for Dallas in 2006-07, scoring six goals and 13 points.
Beginning in 2009-10, Eriksson had three straight seasons of 71 or more points. He was traded to Boston in July 2013 as part of a seven-player deal that sent Tyler Seguin to the Stars.
The Canucks are enjoying a strong start to the season. Despite playing a minor role, Eriksson still enjoys the game.
"I love to play hockey," he said. "I have been doing that my whole life.
"It's always fun, especially when you are winning games."