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VANCOUVER Reshad Jones Jersey , British Columbia — Many observers questioned whether Thomas Vanek and John Tortorella would get along.

But they do.

And now, Vanek is thriving under his new coach as the surging Columbus Blue Jackets (44-29-5) prepare to visit the Vancouver Canucks (29-40-9) on Saturday.

Vanek will face the Canucks for the first time since Vancouver dealt him to the Blue Jackets at the National Hockey League trade deadline in February.

The knock on Vanek, who came across as laid back during his time with Vancouver, was that he did not live up to expectations after previous deadline deals. In other words, he did not stand out personally or help his new team challenge for the Stanley Cup.

But he has seven goals and seven assists in 14 games with the Blue Jacketa.

Meanwhile, Columbus has won 12 of its past 13 games overall and six straight on the road.

“I’m making my own judgment,” Tortorella told reporters recently. “I don’t see some of the things that people are afraid of with this guy (Vanek), as far as attitude. He’s receptive, he’s intelligent, he drives me nuts sometimes (by passing instead of shooting) Tom Brady Jersey , but he is a really good player and (he’s) really helped us try to find our way.”

Accordingly, Vanek, who recorded a hat trick in a 7-3 victory in Edmonton on Tuesday, is enjoying life with the Blue Jackets as they show signs of being able to contend for the Cup.

“I watched the team last year a little bit more because I was in the East (with Florida),” Vanek told reporters. “This year in the West (with Vancouver), you don’t see the Eastern teams as much. But the few games I did catch, I was always impressed with the depth up front, and through the back end.

“But I didn’t think, as a group, that they’re this good. That doesn’t mean we don’t have room to get better. But I don’t think this group knows how good they are.”

On Saturday Jim Otto Jersey , Vanek will be among Blue Jackets who could leave Canucks fans wondering what might have been. Like his new winger, Tortorella has thrived since leaving Vancouver after one dismal season. He became Columbus’ all-time winningest coach with 128 wins as they beat the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

In addition, rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was considered a likely Vancouver draft choice in 2016 before the Blue Jackets unexpectedly took him third overall, is on a scoring tear. He produced a hat trick in Calgary and set a Columbus club record for goals by a rookie with 18 — one more than the 17 produced by Rick Nash in 2002-03. Dubois also is three points shy of the club’s rookie points record (44) set by Zach Werenski last season.

“One of our keys to being able to compete this year is his play in the middle of the ice,” Tortorella told reporters. “Put him with different people, play him against top people in the league, all the teams, and he has just thrived.”

The same could not be said of Canucks forward Sam Gagner, a former Blue Jacket Marshawn Lynch Jersey , for most of this season. Gagner was expected to do everything that Dubois has done after producing 50 points with Columbus last season and earning a three-year contract from Vancouver.

Gagner has struggled to find his niche while playing various roles until now.

He has three goals in his past four games after managing only seven markers in his first 66 games with the Canucks. The surge has coincided with his move to a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“It does a lot for my confidence,” Gagner told reporters of the increased output. “When you go through struggles, you have to try to keep an even keel, just like when you have success.”

Gagner has helped the team succeed too. The Canucks have won three straight games for the first time since late November and early December, and four of their past five.

“As an offensive player it’s nice to get results,” Gagner said. “It allows you to kind of feel better with the puck and feel good offensively.”

Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom has been feeling good about his game, too. He is unbeaten in his past four starts.

“For me right now it’s just a carry-over from the feeling I had in the previous games,” he told reporters. “I just keep building on it.”

Vancouver backup Anders Nilsson has been ill lately, according to reports. As a result, the Canucks called up Thatcher Demko Eric Rowe Jersey , considered their goalie of the future, on an emergency basis Friday.

After winning the AFC South and advancing to the AFC Championship Game last season, the outside view of the Jaguars is quite different this July than it was a year ago.

Quarterback Blake Bortles admitted as much during an appearance on NFL Network when he said the Jaguars aren’t going to surprise anyone this season and will “definitely get” the best from their opponents every week as a result.

The view of Bortles hasn’t completely changed, however. Some still question whether the quarterback is good enough to take the Jaguars where they want to go. Bortles said such critiques aren’t something he spends a lot of time thinking about after spending four years playing for George O’Leary at UCF because he knows he can’t stop anyone from airing those thoughts.

“There’s times when I deserve it,” Bortles said. “And I don’t have a problem admitting that I didn’t play good. And I don’t have a problem with people critiquing me when I don’t play good. It’s just never really bothered me. I love going to work every day. I love playing football, and the locker room, so why let something affect me that I have no control over?”

Outside doubts about Bortles didn’t stop Jacksonville from signing him to a contract extension and there’s been a lot more positivity about the quarterback from the organization than there was last year. Should Bortles back that up on the field this fall, he may be able to avoid questions about his critics at this time next year.
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