Beagle, Leivo should provide boost to desperate Canucks

Colby Armstrong wraps up the weekend as always, and gives beer league players advice on their hockey bags.

VANCOUVER – Nobody knows if Josh Leivo will help the Vancouver Canucks, but Jay Beagle should.

The 33-year-old checking centre was only five games into his four-year, $12-million contract with the National Hockey League team when he broke his forearm blocking Mike Hoffman’s shot in Florida on Oct. 13.

Beagle was out on the ice defending a lead late in the third period. The Canucks won that game.

The Canucks have won once in their past 12 games, all without Beagle. This abysmal streak began after the Canucks blew a pair of two-goal leads and lost shootouts in Detroit and Buffalo.

They’ve surrendered poor winning goals late in the third period in their past two games, home losses against Vegas and Dallas, and on Saturday against the Stars tossed away another lead in the bottom half of the final period.

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In the past 17 games without Beagle, whose absence was compounded significantly by two-way centre Brandon Sutter’s shoulder dislocation on Oct. 29, Canucks penalty killers have allowed 18 power-play goals.

So, yes, the return of Beagle should help. Anything the Canucks get out of Leivo, acquired Monday from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the clearance price of second-tier minor-leaguer Michael Carcone, will be a bonus to the desperate team.

Beagle and Leivo should play Tuesday at Rogers Arena against the Minnesota Wild.

“One way (to help) is just to be here, and have your presence felt,” Beagle said after Monday’s rigorous practice. “Work hard every day in practice and have a smile on your face.

“Once you’ve been in the NHL long enough, you know what it takes to win. It’s the little things, the details. It’s just making sure that in every situation, you’re winning those puck battles and doing everything you can to compete as hard as you can. It really comes down to competing.”

Beagle won a Stanley Cup last spring with the Washington Capitals, whose longest losing streak last season was three games. With a pile of young players and prospects needing to learn how to win in the NHL, the Canucks so valued Beagle’s experience and leadership qualities that they overpaid for him in free agency.

When Travis Green was asked Monday what the Canucks gain with Beagle’s return, he immediately referred to the centre’s leadership.

During their 1-9-2 crash, the Canucks have probably kicked away at least six points because they lacked the experience and nerve to play through critical stretches late in games.

“I think he understands the evolution of skilled players; he’s seen it first-hand with the guys in Washington,” Green said of Beagle. “So I think he understands what some our young players go through on a nightly basis. I think he’s a good sounding board in the room with his leadership qualities.

“We’re probably fast-tracking (young players) a little bit because of the injuries. And those injuries have probably cost us a few points. And that’s the reality. Over the stretch of the last 12 games, we could have easily have another five, six points. Seven. However many points you want to say, we could easily have more.”

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After a 10-6-1 start, the Canucks have plummeted to 11-15-3 and were within four points Monday of the bottom of the NHL. Remarkably, they were also only five points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Beagle’s return comes the week after No. 1 defenceman Alex Edler, top winger Brock Boeser and backup goalie Anders Nilsson returned from long-term injuries.

Sutter and Sven Baertschi remain out, although Canucks general manager Jim Benning told reporters on Monday there was good news from the concussion specialist Baertschi consulted in Detroit and the Swiss winger should be skating soon.

Beagle said he felt helpless watching the Canucks fall.

“It’s one thing to be sidelined and watch your team do good,” he said. “Winning games, that’s great. But it’s the hard times, that’s when you really want to get back out here. I’ve been wanting to get back the last two weeks, really inching, just wanting to be in the moment with these guys.

“It’s through these times where a team grows. Adversity is going to build character in this locker room. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, we have to continue to grow and be positive.”

In that case, the Canucks have a lot of building material. They are so desperate for help that Leivo, a depth forward jettisoned by the Leafs to make roster room for William Nylander, could debut on Vancouver’s top line beside centre Bo Horvat.

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Leivo, 25, has 14 goals and 28 points in 84 NHL games – less than half the number of games the 2011 third-round pick played in the American Hockey League on his way to the Leafs.

To get him on their 23-man roster, the Canucks waived winger Brendan Leipsic, who was claimed Monday by the Los Angeles Kings. Vancouver needs to make another move to activate Beagle and could return rookie centre Adam Gaudette to the Utica Comets on Tuesday.

There was symmetry to Monday’s transactions. Leipsic, also a former third-round draft pick, was given the chance to play with Horvat soon after his trade to the Canucks from Vegas last Feb. 26. Leipsic had two assists in his Canuck debut and six points in his first week with the team.

But he had eight points in his next 27 games in Vancouver – the last chance coming Thursday when Leipsic made a soft play on the puck late in the third period before Vegas scored its winning goal short-handed. Now it’s Leivo’s turn.

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