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O'Brien will sit for three games but Canucks refuse to call it a suspension

VANCOUVER, B.C. - The Vancouver Canucks are not calling it a suspension but defenceman Shane O'Brien will miss three NHL games for disciplinary reasons.

O'Brien didn't practise with the Canucks on Monday after showing up late to the arena.

"There is more to this than just yesterday's incident," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday, prior to Vancouver's game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

O'Brien will not travel with the team for games in Los Angeles on Thursday or Anaheim on Friday. Vancouver's next home game is Sunday against Minnesota.

Vigneault refused to say what prompted the team's action.

"It's not a suspension," he said. "We have a plan for him.

"We've got a special program and the situation will be re-evaulated on Sunday."

The coach became terse when reporters continued to ask questions about O'Brien.

"I am not a rookie at this," he said. "You can try in many ways with many questions. It's not going to work."

O'Brien, 26, skated alone prior to the rest of the team's pre-game skate Tuesday. He did not talk to the media.

The six-foot-three, 223-pound O'Brien is a physical player who sometimes takes needless penalties. The Port Hope, Ont., native has also skated in and out of Vigneault's doghouse during his two seasons with the team.

Earlier this season, he did not dress for seven games. Last year, O'Brien frustrated management after suggesting his ice time was being reduced because he didn't fight enough.

O'Brien later apologized for the remarks.

In 63 games this season, O'Brien has recorded two goals, six assists and 79 penalty minutes. He also is a plus-16.

O'Brien, who earns US$1.6 million, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Vigneault said the situation with O'Brien will not be a distraction for the Canucks, who currently sit first in the Northwest Division.

"Our focus right now . . . we want to work on finishing first in our division and we want to get our game where it needs to be to have playoff success," he said. "There is a lot right now we are focusing on.

"I want to make sure all our players are in the right frame of mind."

Canucks captain Roberto Luongo refused to talk about O'Brien's situation after the morning skate.

"We are getting ready to play the Phoenix Coyotes," said Luongo. "That's what is on our minds and that's what we are worried about.

"As a team we have to make sure we are ready to play."

Winger Alex Burrows said O'Brien is well-liked on the team.

"I think Shane is one of the most likable guys in the locker-room," said Burrows. "Everyone really likes him and wants him back in the lineup.

"Hopefully we will be able to sort that out. For us, we have to keep going and play and that will take care of itself."

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