11/1/2006 5:35:25 PM
BURNABY, B.C. (CP) - A sore hip kept Ryan Kesler out of the Vancouver Canucks practice Wednesday, but it's his lack of goal scoring that pains the soft-spoken centre.
"It's been really frustrating," said Kesler, who has no goals and just two assists in 13 NHL games this season. "I've had numerous opportunities. It's going to come, hopefully sooner rather than later."
Kesler hurt his hip in the first period of Vancouver's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, which left the Canucks with a 7-5-1 record. He finished the game, but said he couldn't extend his leg and felt like he was hobbling all night.
Coach Alain Vigneault said no decision has been made on whether Kesler will play in Thursday night's game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.
A lot of expectations were put on Kesler when - with a little help from former Philadelphia Flyer general manger Bob Clarke - he signed a $US1.9-million, one-year contract with the Canucks this fall.
He has used his size and speed to create opportunities, but just hasn't been able to score.
"Honestly, I'm not happy with the way I am performing right now points-wise," said Kesler, who the Canucks selected 23rd overall in the 2003 draft. "I'm getting the chances.
"Our line is really hard to play against but it just seems the puck is not going in for us right now."
Vancouver was forced to pay Kesler about $1 million more than originally planned this season.
Over the summer the Canucks thought they were close to signing the restricted free agent to a two-year deal, but they were caught off guard when Clarke put forth a $1.9-million offer sheet.
Vancouver GM Dave Nonis could either match the offer or lose Kesler and receive a second-round draft pick.
Kesler denies feeling any pressure from the contract. Vigneault doubts the big cheques are putting any extra weight on the 22-year-old.
"I think he's feeling the pressure that any other player is feeling," said Vigneault. "That's the one to perform and produce.
"I don't think when he steps on the ice he is thinking `I'm making $1.9 million, I have to get it going.' I don't think players are like that."
But Matt Cooke, one of Kesler's linemates, said the contract has to be on Kesler's mind.
"I'm sure it didn't at the start but the longer this goes on, the more it weighs on him for sure," said Cooke. "I take it on as my responsibility, being his linemate, to stay upbeat and make sure he stays positive."
Kesler showed his promise by scoring 30 goals and 27 assists in 78 games with the AHL Manitoba Moose during the NHL's lockout season.
He had 10 goals and 13 assists in 82 games with the Canucks last year. In 123 NHL games, he has 12 goals and 18 assists.
Kesler centres the Canucks' third line between Cooke and Josh Green. Combined, the three have one goal and six assists.