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Canadian Press
11/16/2006 7:58:29 PM

VANCOUVER (CP) - Coming into the season the Vancouver Canucks knew scoring goals wouldn't be easy, but even they didn't think it was going to be this hard.

Vancouver has scored two or less goals in regulation time in its last eight NHL games.

The Canucks, who are two games below .500 with a 8-10-1 record, have managed just 43 goals in 19 games. Their 2.26 goals-a-game average is second worst in the league.

"It's been a little tougher than we expected," captain Markus Naslund said after practice Thursday.

"We are capable of scoring goals (but) right now we're not getting the bounces, we're not getting any luck. A lot of the players are squeezing the sticks a little too much."

With goals being more scarce than sunny days in Vancouver, it shouldn't be a surprise the Canucks have lost three games in a row and six of their last seven.

Over the summer Vancouver lost a combined 66 goals when Todd Bertuzzi was traded to Florida and Anson Carter and Ed Jovanovski left as free agents.

It was hoped players like Jan Bulis, Ryan Kesler, Matt Cooke, Brendan Morrison, Marc Chouinard and Taylor Pyatt would fill the gap.

Pyatt has done his part, scoring eight goals. The other five have combined for eight goals. Kesler and Cooke have one each, while Chouinard has none.

"Personally, I thought we had potentially nine guys in the room that could score at least 15 goals," said Morrison, who is earning US$3.2 million this season. "I thought we'd be fine. Obviously that hasn't really come to fruition.

"Now it's a situation where you think about it so much it starts to consume you, instead of just going out and relaxing and playing, reacting instead of thinking."

Cooke, who is a team worse -7, said the goal drought is hanging over the dressing room like the dark rain clouds on Vancouver's North Shore mountains.

"It's on everyone's mind," he said. "You can't focus on the goals.

"You focus on the process first and everything else will come. We've been getting chances."

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault reached deep into his bag of tricks looking for a way to create goals.

He's switched up his lines and sat players out of games. At practice one day this week, he had small pieces of plywood placed in front of a net, forcing players to roof shots.

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