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Brady Keeper Stretchered Off; Rathbone Solid, Coach Not Impressed with Juolevi

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Almost an hour into the final session of the Vancouver Canucks training camp, Group-B defenceman Brady Keeper blocked a shot in front of his own net and went down in distress. The hundreds of fans in the building went quiet as the 25-year-old yelled in pain while laying on his back in front of his net. The contact the shot made with his leg registered an audible “pop” that echoed off the rafters of the Abbotsford Centre, as did his anguish. Medical personnel were summoned and they secured him to a hard board and then stretched him off the ice. The Canucks signed the 6’2″, 198 pound D-man to a two-year, one-way contract back on July 28th. He’s a native of the First Nation community of Cross Lake, Manitoba and has played two NHL games with the Florida Panthers.

“It’s unfortunate, I thought his game had gotten better as camp has gone on,” said Head Coach Travis Green afterwards. “You never like to see anyone laying down on the ice and carried off in that way, no.” No update yet on his condition.

The white jerseys were lucky this camp. Friday the whites beat the blues 3-0 in the 50-minute scrimmage, dominated by the fresh legs of the team that hadn’t practiced yet. The blue team, having already completed a morning session of practice, were rewarded for their loss with some extra lap skating. Saturday it was the inverse. The “tired legs” from the morning session, again in white, beat the blues 3-1. Stand-outs included goal scorers Nils H√∂glander, Alex Chiasson, and Jonah Gadjovich. In fact, the young legs of the Gadjovich, Sheldon Rempal and Chase Wouters were energetic and impressive throughout.

Veteran defenceman Luke Schenn on the play of his lefty part-time partner Jack Rathbone, the 22-year-old Boston native who impressed with three points in eight games for the Vancouver Canucks last season: “He’s been great, he’s a smooth skater, almost effortless I would say, he’s a good puck-mover, can tell he’s real gifted offensively. He has a ton of potential but he’s already done some good things obviously last year and a lot of people are high on him for good reason. Just playing with him here in a couple of scrimmages you can see why, and you just try to help him when you can and communicate as much as possible and make guys like that feel comfortable.”

More on this competition shortly, but coach Green was not impressed with Olli Juolevi in the “bag skate” Thursday, when asked about the left defenceman’s apparent struggle with the conditioning.

“Well, I don’t think he did himself any favours,, that’s for sure,” Green said. “All three of them (Rathbone and Brad Hunt are the other two) know there’s a battle going on for that spot and he’s been through it before and I would have expected him to do better.”

One version of the Vancouver Canucks, likely a younger one, will travel to Spokane, Washington Sunday to take on the Seattle Kraken in that franchise’s first ever exhibition game. The game is slated to begin at 6 pm Pacific.

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