This is the message from his coaches before a Pacific Division matchup Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he’s a healthy scratch against the Kings.
“Next game I can get in,” he said this morning after an optional skate at Staples Center, “I’m going to be in there laying bodies on guys and showing I can play that way, too.”
Virtanen had been playing on the wing alongside Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin but Loui Eriksson will take that spot in the lineup Tuesday for his second game with the twins since returning from injury in October. They’ll play on the second shift while other expected forward lines include Brendan Gaunce, Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett on a shut-down line plus the trio of Thomas Vanek, Markus Granlund and Sam Gagner. Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser are still on the top line.
Virtanen has been busy looking at tape with the Canucks coaching staff, working on the details and learning when to get gritty and how to get in on the Sedinery by crashing the net, recovering pucks and being aggressive.
“I should really be getting a hit every shift is what Greener told me,” he said.
The 2014 first-round draft pick has four points in 15 games this season. He played only 10 games last season in the NHL before being sent down to AHL Utica. Ultimately, he said it’s excellent to have strong, clear and open communication with the first-year NHL head coach he came to know well while playing for the Comets.
“He’s there and he can talk to you,” said Virtanen. “If you’re not playing well and you’re not getting told anything, you don’t want to keep playing the same way. You want to keep getting better every day.”
The Canucks (8-7-2) look to bump a two-game losing skid against the Kings (11-4-2) and to overcome a dismal power play that has struggled of late, going 0-for-10 over the last two games. Overall, Vancouver has the worst power-play rating of any team in the Western Conference at 14.1 per cent.
Having conceding three short-handed goals against the Sharks, and five in total this season, the Canucks have given up the third-most short-handed goals in the league.
With files from Brendan Batchelor.