Vancouver Canucks LW Chris Higgins in Utica is a Win-Win

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Vancouver Canucks
Jan 15, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Vancouver Canucks forward Linden Vey (7) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Benefit: Vote of confidence for Linden Vey and Emerson Etem

After Linden Vey was waived at the beginning of the season, did you see him sticking with the Canucks ever again? I didn’t. The 24-year-old forward now seems to have regained the coach’s confidence on the third line, logging 15+ minutes of ice time in each of the last four games.

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Funny, because “the last four games” translates to “when Emerson Etem played”.

The two Canucks who have played the most minutes with Etem are Vey and Alex Burrows. The three make up the Canucks’ third line now after Etem bumped Higgins for the job. Losing Higgins effectively opened up a spot for regressing Burrows to play on the third line, which is where I believe he will play the best as he starts losing his scoring touch.

When Higgins — supposedly one of the most defensive-minded forwards — gave way to Etem, the third line has been coach Willie Desjardins’s favourite for defensive assignments. Vey has started 59.4 percent of his starts in the defensive zone, the highest of all the Canucks who have played more than two games this season.

An interesting stat to note, the Canucks are 7-3-2 in the twelve games that Vey has played this season. With the addition of Etem to the lineup, the Canucks had to subtract Higgins from their lineup. It seems like his absence has breathed life into Vey and the third line.

The enhanced role of the third line also gave Bo Horvat a lot more breathing room offensively, prompting him to go on a six-game point streak. You can bet that Sven Baertschi now has an undisputed grip on the second-line left winger role and that confidence is helping him support Horvat’s play. Baertschi has also logged 15+ minutes in each of the five games the Canucks have played without Higgins in the lineup.

The Canucks are 3-1-0 in the four games they have played without Higgins.

Next: Benefit for the Utica Comets