VANCOUVER - Coming off an uninspired loss in the first game after the NHL all-star break, Willie Desjardins had a pointed chat with his Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday morning.
"We talked about our team identity," the head coach said of the meeting before practice. "We talked about who we are ... the things we do when we play our game. We asked each other: 'Is that how we played (Tuesday) night? And if it isn't how we played, is that acceptable?' I don't think the guys felt we played our best game."
While the Anaheim Ducks currently sit atop the NHL standings, the Canucks generated just seven shots over the final two periods of a 4-0 defeat.
"If we can live with not playing our best game, we'll play that way lots of nights because it's a tough league," added Desjardins. "That's what we laid out and it's up to each of us to look at it."
Canucks forward Jannik Hansen, one of Vancouver's most consistent players all season, said it was a good refresher with 36 games left in the regular season and the team currently in a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"It was all about back to the basics that we were handed out at training camp — what we're about, how we need to play, what we need to do in order to be successful," he said. "Nothing has really changed since we showed up in the summer. It's still the same team, it's still the same group of guys, and we need to play the way we did early on: four lines, hard to play against, making sure we're competing."
The main culprit for Vancouver's up-and-down play recently has been a lack of offence. The Canucks have scored just three times over their last three games and have failed to find the mark at home in 176 minutes 21 seconds — a stretch of nearly nine periods.
"We're not happy where we are right now with our game," said defenceman Dan Hamhuis. "We had a long talk about it as a group, had a hard practice. We know we have some work to do. Scoring is one thing, but that's the result of playing well in a lot of other areas on the ice. Focusing on our process needs to be a lot better."
Desjardins shouldered some of the blame for not having the team ready to play against Anaheim after Vancouver went 3-2-0 on a five-game road trip prior to the all-star break.
"It's up to the coaches to have them ready and it's up to me to have them ready," he said. "I think our level could have been better."
The rookie coach also added it looked like the players' heads were still back at the beach or on the slopes, not on the ice.
"I think we came off the break, and we were still in the break mode when we played," said Desjardins. "We weren't at the level we needed to compete the way we needed to compete. That one's gone and it can't happen again. We've had a few of those at home and we know that and we have to react accordingly."
Vancouver (26-17-3) has a mediocre record of 11-9-1 at Rogers Arena so far this season compared to a stellar 15-8-2 mark away from home.
Desjardins touched on his club's inability to win battles on Tuesday night so it was perhaps no coincidence that the Canucks were put through a number of 1-on-1 drills Wednesday.
"If you want to win in this league you have to play hard. You just have to," said Desjardins. "Teams are way too good. I didn't think we competed maybe the way we needed to, and I believe we (can) compete that way. I don't believe it's something we can't do."
The Canucks were without some of their grit and vocal leadership against the Ducks — Kevin Bieksa and Brad Richardson were both injured, while Derek Dorsett left in the second period after taking a hit from Ryan Kesler.
"It's always tough when you have injuries all in one area. It's not so much that you have three injuries, but that they come from a group that plays the same way," said Desjardins. "Somebody else has to step up ... we can't say if those guys were out the rest of the year: 'Well, we're out of luck.'
"I don't think people would accept that so other guys in the room have to find a way."
Notes: After taking on the NHL's top team on Tuesday, the Canucks continue their six-game homestand Friday against the league-worst Buffalo Sabres. ... Bieksa is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a broken hand suffered in Vancouver's last game prior to the all-star break. ... Richardson has a foot injury and Desjardins wasn't certain of his availability for Friday. ... Dorsett, who was hit in the head during his collision with Kesler against the Ducks, also didn't practice on Wednesday. Desjardins said he is still being evaluated.
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