Forward Jan Bulis hopes this spring's playoffs give him a second chance to prove to the Vancouver Canucks he's worth keeping for another year. "I'm looking forward to the playoffs," Bulis said prior to the Canucks' opening game Wednesday against the Dallas Stars in their Western Conference quarter-final series. "It can turn the whole season around if you have a good playoffs.
"It's going to be important for me. Hopefully, if we go a few rounds, it will be even better for me."
The Canucks signed Bulis to a one-year, $US1.3-million contract last summer after he had 20 goals and 40 points for the Montreal Canadiens the previous season. Four of those goals came in one game.
There were hopes the 31-year-old Czech could take up some of the scoring slack after the Canucks decided to let Anson Carter, who led the team with 33 goals last year, go as a free agent.
Bulis responded with 12 goals and 11 assists in 79 games. While far below last year's numbers, it's more in line with his previous three seasons of nine, 16 and 13 goals.
Bulis has seen his role change in Vancouver. He now kills penalties and has dropped onto the third line.
Coach Alain Vigneault said instead of pouting, Bulis has adapted.
"I think Jan, in his role lately, has been good," said Vigneault. "He's one of our penalty killers, he does a good job.
"We've changed him a little bit. He's a good two-way player with good speed. I'm happy with what he's done for us."
Bulis has flash but lacks finish. He uses his speed to dance by defenders, but then is tripped up by hitting a post or missing an open net.
"The last few years I know I'm a guy that needs a lot of chances to score," said Bulis, who was picked 46th overall by Washington in the 1996 draft. "I can work on my shot.
"Probably that's the one thing to do in the summer, just shoot at the net."
Vigneault seems satisfied with Bulis's scoring production. The Canucks managed 222 goals this season, lowest of any of the Western Conference playoff teams.
"He might have been brought in here for his offensive production but he scored 20 goals last year and four of those were in one game," reasoned Vigneault. "Really he had 16 goals in the reminder of the games.
"He's got 12 this year. He's pretty well on the same pace."
A bigger problem may be the cheap penalties Bulis takes, causing some critics to question his hockey smarts. His 70 penalty minutes were second highest among Canuck forwards.
When Bulis first signed in Vancouver it was thought he'd play on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Early in the year he spent some time with the Swedish twins but when the Canucks struggled Bulis found himself shuffled to different lines.
If Bulis is unhappy about not playing with the twins he hasn't shown it.
"I'm not frustrated," said Bulis. "It's not even about playing with the twins.
"You like ice time and the opportunity to play more. The team was winning and I'm pretty happy."
In the weeks before the trade deadline, a story surfaced saying Bulis wanted to be traded. Bulis denied ever asking Dave Nonis, the Canuck general manager, to deal him.
"It was a bad rumour that came out in Montreal and spread over the papers," Bulis said. "We had a couple of talks with Dave Nonis and got it all straightened out.
"Now it is good."
Even if Bulis has a good playoff, it remains to be seen if he'll be a Canuck next year.
"It's not my call," Bulis said with a shrug. "We'll see how the coach is and how Nonis is gong to feel about it.
"It's a great city and I would to play here."