NHL

Hodgson breaks out in Vancouver

Hockey Primetime Mike Cook
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Cody Hodgson was one of 12 rookies to take part in the NHL’s all-star event last weekend.

It is a fitting tribute to a player who has overcome a lot of obstacles in his young career to become a solid third-line center for the Vancouver Canucks. He also has provided quality ice time on the second power-play unit for one of the league's best teams.

"I am happy to be playing," Hodgson told The Vancouver Sun about a month ago. "I'm playing with some good linemates and enjoying playing the game. That hasn't changed, regardless of how much I play or where I play or that kind of stuff. I'm just happy to contribute whatever way I can."

That contribution has made the Canucks deeper and potentially more dangerous.

On a team with two outstanding scoring lines, Hodgson’s average ice time has generally remained in the 13-minute range, yet his point totals have increased each month: two goals, one assist, three points in October; 2-6-8 in November; 4-5-9 in December; and 6-4-10 in January, including his first career two-goal game, on Jan. 21.

Hodgson is fourth in the league in rookie scoring with 30 points, six behind Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His 14 goals are second, one behind Philadelphia’s Matt Read.

"Everybody wants to contribute and do well," Hodgson said last week. "It doesn't matter who gets the goals on the team; we just want to play well and come out with a win.”

Just staying on the ice has been an accomplishment for the 21-year-old.

Taken 10th overall by the Canucks in the 2008 draft, Hodgson played one more season for Brampton in the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 43 goals and adding 49 assist in 53 games en route to being named the league’s player of the year. Once Brampton was eliminated from the playoffs, Hodgson joined Manitoba for its American Hockey League playoff run. He had a goal and an assist in his first two games.

With all signs pointing to Hodgson getting a good shot to make the Canucks' roster for 2009-10, he missed two months of summer training after injuring his back, an injury that Canucks’ doctors initially thought to be a bulging disk. Ultimately, Hodgson struggled in six preseason games and was returned to Brampton.

However, he missed the season’s first 50 games after another clinic correctly diagnosed his back problem as a muscle strain. Sadly, the treatment for the misdiagnosed bulging disk had further aggravated the strain. To add insult to injury, he later missed time that season with a broken toe.

After again challenging for a Canucks roster spot during the team's 2010 training camp, Hodgson was sent to Manitoba. He suffered a broken orbital bone in December 2010 but made his NHL debut on Feb. 1, 2011 and scored his first career goal the next night.

He shuttled back-and-forth between Vancouver and Manitoba a couple more times before the season ended but joined the Canucks for their playoff run and appeared in 12 of the 25 postseason games.

"I don't really like looking back," Hodgson told The Vancouver Sun last week. "I feel I'm in a good position now and contributing. I was fortunate to have friends and family who supported me all the way through.”

This season, Hodgson began as Ryan Kesler’s replacement as the team’s second-line center while the latter recovered from hip surgery. When Kesler returned, Hodgson briefly moved to the line’s right wing before settling as the team’s third-line center.

“With Cody, when the season started, I think our whole group felt we had a young player with a tremendous amount of upside,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He's worked real hard. His attitude, his understanding of the game and his understanding of where he needs to be better is what is going to get him to be the best player he can be.”

Added winger Mason Raymond: “He definitely deserves to be here."

Northwest Division notes

• The Calgary Flames have allowed only eight goals in their last five games, but the offense has been held to two or fewer goals in six of the past seven. . . . Left wing Alex Tanguay returned to the lineup last week after missing 15 games because of a neck injury.

• Adrian Dater of The Denver Post believes Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene will be out at least a couple more weeks because of a left knee injury. The team remains mum on the matter. . . . Avalanche coach Joe Sacco needs one victory to reach 100 career wins as an NHL head coach. He owns a 99-98-19 record, all with Colorado.

Edmonton Oilers right wing Ryan Jones appears to have hit a wall, with only three assists and no goals in his past 15 games.

Minnesota Wild winger Guillaume Latendresse returned to practice for the Wild Monday after missing 17 straight games and 32 of 34 with concussion symptoms. He said he has been symptom-free for 10-12 days and that he needs to be cleared for contact. Center Mikko Koivu (shoulder) also skated with the team.

• After a slow start to the season, Vancouver is 13-4-2 since Dec. 17 and entered play Wednesday leading the division by 11 points.

Tagged: Michael Del Zotto, Flames, Blackhawks, Oilers, Avalanche, Canucks, Wild, Brendan Morrison, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Jones, Matt Duchene, Cody Hodgson

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