Boucher seeks strong follow-up as Canucks face Panthers
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Reid Boucher might get to stay in the NHL for a while now -- just by necessity.
The Vancouver journeyman forward's job security has been enhanced as the Canucks (22-28-6) battle injuries heading into Wednesday's home contest against the Florida Panthers (24-23-6).
But Boucher who has bounced between the minors and NHL this season and in recent years, helped his cause by scoring two goals in a 6-0 win over Dallas on Sunday. The trick now is to carry that effort into Wednesday's game and beyond.
"I seem to be comfortable and playing the right way," Boucher told Postmedia Tuesday. "I'm just trying to earn a job. Every game I have to prove myself and hopefully I become a full-timer pretty soon."
Boucher, who has played most of this season with the Utica Comets of the AHL, could be in line for more ice time as the Canucks try to make up for the absences of forwards Markus Granlund (ankle), Sam Gagner (leg) and Brendan Gaunce (foot).
Granlund became the latest casualty, undergoing ankle surgery that has likely ended his season, so Boucher is slated to skate alongside Nic Dowd and Jake Virtanen against the Panthers.
Boucher's comfort was evident in the AHL, where he ranked among the league leaders in goals with 22 and points with 41. But he credits the improved output to a stronger defensive game.
"When I got sent down at the start of the season, I just wanted to work on the little things in my game," he told Postmedia. "And because of that, I'm having a good offensive year because good defense leads offense.
"You cause turnovers and turn it right back on and you get the odd-man rushes. I want to be able to put points up in this league and be an offensive guy and the more I do that the more confidence I get doing it. Hopefully it continues."
Canucks coach Travis Green, who has also coached Boucher with Utica, has been more impressed with the forward, who can play both center and wing, than he was in the past.
"I've seen a little more confidence in his game a little bit more go-get-em," Green, told reporters. "He's moving his feet more and he seems more free. He's trying to make plays and also going and getting the puck.
"He's a guy who has realized where he faltered before and (is) realizing he has to go for it. We want all our players to play aggressive in their own way and that's a good example."
Boucher, a Lansing, Mich., native, has been known for a quick shot, but a questionable fitness level in the past and modest foot speed. He has 19 goals in 118 career games New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and the Canucks. Last season, he played for all three clubs while making the waiver rounds.
"I've almost been through it all," Boucher, a fourth-round 2011 pick by the Devils, told Postmedia. "Last year was a bit of a hard season for me, picking up and moving three times. But I had a good offseason. (Canucks management) told me to lose some weight and get my body fat down. And I did."
Time will tell how long he can stick with the Canucks as the NHL trade deadline approaches, along with several likely changes in the offseason following a probable third straight season out of the playoffs. He and the rest of the Canucks will try to further their job security with a rebound effort against Florida after being drubbed in the Sunshine State last week.
The Panthers, who are predominantly young and also likely to miss the playoffs, enter Wednesday's tilt off a 7-5 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton on Monday.
Goaltender James Reimer delivered a solid 27-save effort in his first game back from a groin injury that had kept him out since Jan. 23 against Dallas.
But Reimer could be quickly displaced by No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo, who could play against his former Canucks club after being sidelined since Dec. 4 with a groin injury.
"I feel good," Luongo told Postmedia after a practice in Vancouver on Tuesday. "Health-wise, I feel 100 per cent, but it's been a while since I've played and I'm trying to get up to speed as far as game shape, timing reads. Today (Tuesday), was just my third full practice, and it's improving every day. But I feel I need a bit more to get to."
This has been a challenging season for the former Canuck, who returned to the ice where he backstopped Canada to a gold medal in 2010.
"It's kind of weird," he said. "I hurt my thumb earlier in the season and missed two months. And for some reason when I came back, I thought I was playing at another level."
Updated February 13, 2018