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Posted On Monday, 05.16.2011 / 6:56 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Was Douglas Murray ever small?

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Daniel Sedin watched Ryan Kesler try to skate over Douglas Murray in Game 1. He had to cringe when he saw Kesler get stood up like he was skating into a tank.

Sedin recalls playing with Murray in Sweden when the two were younger. Daniel was smaller, but Murray?

"Big. He was a man was he was 12," Daniel said Monday. "He was a big guy back then, too."

And knew how to inflict some pain even without trying, sort of like he does now, or like he did to Kesler on Sunday.

"How much does he weigh, 300 pounds?" Daniel said jokingly of Murray, who checks in at 6-3 and 240 pounds. "He's a big guy and he uses that to his advantage. I think it hurts every time you run into him. It doesn't have to be a big hit on him to get hurt."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.15.2011 / 7:51 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Huskins in, Demers out for Sharks in Game 1

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- San Jose has one big change in its lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as defenseman Kent Huskins has drawn back in and will play for the first time since Feb. 19. Huskins had been considered a healthy scratch in the playoffs save for Game 1 of the first round against Los Angeles.

Jason Demers is instead scratched for the Sharks. Demers, who played in all 13 games of the first round, was not on the ice for pre-game warm-ups. He had 2 goals and an assist over the first two rounds. Huskins will be paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Not surprisingly due to the potential physicality in this series and the size of the Sharks' forwards, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has inserted Victor Oreskovich into the lineup for fourth-line duty with Cody Hodgson and Tanner Glass. Oreskovich last played in Game 2 against Nashville.

Oreskovich is playing instead of the injured Mikael Samuelsson and in place of the smaller Jeff Tambellini, who played in Game 6 against Nashville and likely would have been in if the Canucks were playing Detroit instead of the Sharks. Oreskovich is 6-3 and 215 pounds so his size and physicality could prove valuable against San Jose.

San Jose is keeping a bigger lineup up front as well and will use Jamal Mayers and Ben Eager on the fourth line with Scott Nichol.

Of course, Roberto Luongo will start in Vancouver's net and Antti Niemi will do the same for San Jose.

Here are the lines, defensive pairings and goaltenders from pre-game warm-ups:

SAN JOSE

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell - Joe Pavelski - Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager - Scott Nichol - Jamal Mayers

Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Ian White - Niclas Wallin
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Kent Huskins

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki

VANCOUVER

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Raffi Torres - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Tanner Glass - Cody Hodgson - Victor Oreskovich

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Aaron Rome - Christian Ehrhoff

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

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Posted On Sunday, 05.15.2011 / 1:56 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Canucks, Sharks looking for some special play

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Canucks scored the game-winning goals in Games 3, 4 and 6 against Nashville on the power play.

San Jose's 51 power play opportunities are the most of any team in through two rounds.

The Canucks killed off 20 of 21 penalties against Nashville and finished the regular season with the League's third-ranked penalty kill and No. 1 power play.

San Jose was No. 2.

Yes, special teams will be huge in the Western Conference Finals. If one team gains the edge on both ends, it will probably advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

"They've got a lot of skill up front and they've got (Dan) Boyle on 'D', and he's one of the best power play defensemen in the League," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Sunday morning. "It's obviously not something I'd like to do, give them a lot of power plays."

The Sharks have converted only seven of their 51 power plays for a 13.7-percent success rate that is 13th in the NHL. The Canucks have allowed the opposition 50 power play chances, so the Sharks are likely going to get their share in this series as well and they have to be better.

"When you look at it from a numbers perspective, the 13 percent, 14 percent or wherever we're at, not very impressive," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "When you look at the goals we scored, the power play (goals), you have to be pretty pleased. It's won us some games, allowed us to move on."

Vancouver has converted on eight of 36 power plays, but just one of 18 on its home ice. San Jose has had its own discipline problems and has given up the opposition 52 power play chances. The Canucks need to take advantage, but they also need to keep the chances against down. They've given up a League-worst three shorthanded goals.

"I'm a big believer that when you close a series and you move on, you start with fresh numbers," McLellan said. "We have a huge challenge ahead of us, because they're a very good penalty-killing team, obviously the best in the League. We expect our power play to have an impact on the series."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.14.2011 / 6:08 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Oreskovich might get back in

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Victor Oreskovich skated on the Canucks' fourth line with Tanner Glass and Cody Hodgson in Saturday's practice at Rogers Arena, but when asked afterwards if he is playing in Game 1 Sunday against San Jose, the 24-year-old physical forward said he doesn't know yet.

"We'll see what happens," Oreskovich told NHL.com. "Obviously I'd be real excited to play, but I haven't heard anything yet."

Oreskovich hasn't played since Game 2 against Nashville. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault used Jeff Tambellini instead of Oreskovich to replace the injured Mikael Samuelsson in Game 6 against the Predators. Samuelsson has been ruled out of Game 1, but Tambellini, whose speed allowed him to erase a breakaway opportunity for Martin Erat in Game 6, is an option.

However, it's possible (likely?) that Vigneault turns to the bigger Oreskovich, who is 6-3 and 215 pounds, to start the Western Conference Finals because the Sharks' forwards are much bigger across the board than the Predators.

"They do have a big strong team, some physical guys up front and physical guys on the back end," Oreskovich said. "I know what I have to bring if I'm in the lineup. I'd love to get that opportunity, but we'll see what happens."

If he does, chances are Oreskovich won't get much more than six or seven minutes of ice time depending on the flow of the game, especially if the Canucks are chasing the score.

Can he establish himself as a physical presence in such a short amount of time?

"It is tough because the guys are good in this League and they don't want to get hit, so finding those big hits isn't easy," Oreskovich said. "It's more about just eliminating guys out of the play, being defensively responsible and if that big hit is there it's there. You don't want to be running out of position just to get that big hit."

He does, however, want Vigneault to give him the chance to make some big hits.

"The coaches have told us all, the guys that aren't in the lineup, to be ready because you never know," Oreskovich said. "Tambellini hadn't played in a while and he came back and played in Nashville, played well and made a big play. You've got to be ready all the time."

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Posted On Monday, 05.09.2011 / 12:05 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCSF: Vancouver-Nashville Live Blog

Predators know they can win

NASHVILLE -- The Predators belief system is stronger than ever. They know they're up against it again Monday night, down 3-2 in the series and facing elimination for the second time, but they also know for sure now that they can beat the Canucks, that Game 2 wasn't a fluke.

"Absolutely, we truly believe that we can beat these guys," goalie Pekka Rinne said. "We've shown that we can beat these guys. We can do it."

They did it in Game 5 by a 4-3 margin, but the Canucks helped them by committing three agregious turnovers that led to goals and punching another one into the net for an own-goal.

Mike Fisher says he doesn't believe the Canucks will make the same, or as many, mistakes in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena tonight, but that doesn't mean the Predators belief system is cracked.

"We know we can beat them if we do the right things and play our game," Fisher said. "That being said, they are going to come out strong tonight. We expect a hungry, desperate team and they don't want to go to a Game 7. That has to bring the best out of us. It's going to be a lot harder than Game 5, that's for sure. We have to grind it out here at home."

Fisher was also asked if he believes critics are surprised the Predators are still in this series?

"Maybe some people, but we're obviously not," he said. "We're in this series, but we're against the wall tonight and we'll see how we respond.

"It just comes down to work, and we have to outwork them tonight."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.07.2011 / 2:26 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCSF: Vancouver-Nashville Live Blog

Hodgson learning despite limited time

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Rookie Cody Hodgson has played in six of Vancouver's 11 playoff games and only twice reached double digits in minutes. He's played the last two games against Nashville, but totaled just 11 minutes and 12 seconds of ice time.

Still, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said he appreciates the way Hodgson is handling his limited role and believes he's shown some good signs of being a useful player now, not just in the future.

"Cody is coming along," Vigneault said. "This is a big stage and he's getting an opportunity to play a couple of minutes here and there, but he's shown that he's a smart player. He understands the game at both ends of the rink and I think he's only going to get better."

Vigneault hesitated when he was asked if he thinks Hodgson will be better off as a result of the minimal role he has with the Canucks now.

"I think there are some benefits to playing in the American League, playing big minutes in those pressure situations, just as I think there are benefits to being here and getting used to the surroundings, getting used to the attention," Vigneault said. "I can see benefits on both sides really."

So why is he here instead of with the Manitoba Moose, who are still playing in the Calder Cup Playoffs?

Well, out of necessity, really.

"We needed him," Vigneault said. "When Manny (Malhotra) went down (with a season-ending eye injury) and the end of the season occurred, we thought (Hodgson) could be one of the 12 forwards we could use. That's it."

He has an assist and is a minus-3, but the Canucks are at least getting some use out of him.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 3:53 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCSF: Vancouver-Nashville Live Blog

Trotz learns why opponent matters

Barry Trotz has been in this game for a long time and has been the coach of the Nashville Predators since they were born in 1997. But, this week, for the first time in his NHL career, he had to refocus his team on the next opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Trotz found out that it isn't so easy to do, especially when you finish a series early and wind up waiting to find out who you're going to play next.

"Our first practice back after taking a day off we didn't know who we were going to play and I didn't like our practice, I didn't like our focus because we had no focus, we had no opponent," he said Thursday morning. "Our mentality changed once we found out who we were playing. We found out it was Vancouver and our mentality as a team changed right away.

"So, I learned something the other day on a little bit about the playoffs. You need an opponent to be focused, and we didn't have that. Once we did we were a changed team. Now we're looking forward to the challenge."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.26.2011 / 4:47 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

It's all on you Vancouver

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Blackhawks have believed since Game 1 that the pressure is all on the Canucks, and they're not about to change their tune now.

"We're confident and we're having a lot of fun, but nothing changes coming into this game," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We still feel the pressure is on them. They're the ones that had a 3-0 lead and they're trying to close us out. We're just putting the pressure on them and nothing has changed in that way."

Added Viktor Stalberg: "Really we have nothing to lose. The pressure is on them. This city is not going to be happy if they lose four straight to us. It's going to be fun for us. We can go in with no pressure, just try to play our game and have fun with it."

Patrick Kane said he can sense that the city of Vancouver is on tilt heading into Game 7.

"It's a big hockey city and they were expected to do well this year," Kane said. "They were in a good position after Game 3."

Toews thinks he knows what the Canucks have to do to have a chance to win tonight.

"If they want to beat us they're going to have to play their best game of the series," he said. "We know we're going to bring our best game."

"I certainly think we have momentum going into the game," added coach Joel Quenneville. "We were talking in Game 4 about just getting the momentum changed in our direction and see where it takes us. I think it's taken us to a pretty remarkable place."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.26.2011 / 4:31 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Kane on Canucks: 'They take some stupid penalties'

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- When asked about the comments Vancouver GM Mike Gillis made Monday about the officiating in this series and how the Canucks aren't getting a fair shake, most of the Blackhawks shrugged their shoulders and danced around the issue.

But, Patrick Kane and coach Joel Quenneville attacked Gillis' remarks head on.

"I think maybe him doing that takes the pressure off his players a bit and puts the emphasis on something else," Kane said Tuesday morning. "I mean, the way they play is pretty physical and sometimes they take some stupid penalties. I don't think you can really complain about many calls to be honest with you."

Quenneville pulled a Gillis and cited the facts.

"My only comment to that is I just look at our regular season we were the second fewest penalized team all year long," he said. "That's my defense."

Technically he's not accurate since the Hawks were actually third in total penalties and penalty minutes during the regular season, but they were second in total times shorthanded whereas the Canucks were 24th. Vancouver was also 18th in total penalties and 13th in penalty minutes.

So, what Quenneville is saying is that the trend in this series -- Chicago has had 27 power plays to Vancouver's 16 -- is right on par with what happened for the two squads in the regular season.

Nevertheless, Kane understood why Gillis stepped out in front of the cameras and made his remarks Monday.

"It might be a good move by him to try to get the emphasis on something else and maybe the League or the refs start thinking about it," He said. "But, I don't think it's really going to matter tonight. I think it's going to be a fair game."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.24.2011 / 2:15 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Is it Game 6 or Game 7?

CHICAGO -- Henrik Sedin is still trying to keep the mood light around his club, so in response to a question that referenced the Penguins-Lightning series, Vancouver's captain had this to say to a group of reporters Sunday morning at the team hotel:

"I can't believe a team could lose 8-2 in the playoffs."

He was kidding, of course. After all, then Canucks lost to Chicago, 7-2, in Game 4.

But, Sedin's attitude in the morning spoke to how the Canucks are feeling. Despite getting blitzed by a combined 12-2 in Games 4 and 5, they are still in control of this series up 3-2. Only one team Sunday night can skate into the second round.

That being said, Vancouver is prepared to treat Game 6 like it's Game 7 just so it can feel the same pressure to win as the Blackhawks.

"We haven't done that in the last two games and tonight it's time," Henrik said. "We have to treat this as a Game 7 and play a lot better."

It's fair to say that even with one more mulligan still left in their bag, if the Canucks lose Game 6, then Game 7 Tuesday in Vancouver could be ugly, too.

"We know in this League if you're not on top of your game it's going to be like this," Sedin said. "We haven't had guys doing the things we're supposed to do and if you don't do that it's going to get out of hand. We've seen that in other series than ours, too."

Just as the Blackhawks are inspired by what the Flyers were able to do after falling into a 3-0 hole last year, the Canucks have to be aware of why the Bruins let them back in it.

"The last couple of games we've been out of the game halfway through the first period," Henrik said. "(A good start) is huge for us. Even if they score first we have to stick to our gameplan. We can't start looking for goals. We're going to have to keep this game tight and if you have to win it in the last minute, that's fine with us."

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