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Posted On Saturday, 06.11.2011 / 1:59 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final: Canucks vs. Bruins

Fans in frenzy after Game 5 win

VANCOUVER – An estimated crowd of 70,000 to 100,000 people were in the downtown core for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final -- and many of them will now likely party into the early hours of Saturday morning after the Canucks beat the Boston Bruins 1-0.

By 3 p.m. local time, bars along Water Street in Gastown had significant lineups, and bar patios along Burrard Street were at capacity well before puck drop.

Georgia Street, one of the city's main arteries in to the downtown core, was shut down at noon on Friday to accommodate those who planned to watch the game on a large screen set up at the intersection of Georgia and Hamilton, outside of the CBC's Vancouver bureau.

Once the final buzzer sounded, three to four city blocks were jammed with fans taking in the game.

If the scene after Vancouver's 3-2 win in Game 2 win last Saturday night was any indication, traffic will not be getting through on Granville Street, in the city's popular entertainment district, until well into Saturday morning.

Canucks fans have been waiting 17 long years to see their team get back to the Stanley Cup Final, and coming on the heels of the 2010 Winter Olympics last February, have been using the Final run to re-create the festive atmosphere created by the Olympics.

Fans will pour into Rogers Arena by the thousands once again on Monday night to take in Game 6 on the big screen. Canucks Sports and Entertainment has opened the building to fans at $10 a ticket, with proceeds going to charity.

Games 3 and 4 sold out, and tickets were fetching over $100 on sites like Craigslist.

Many in Vancouver feel a Stanley Cup win will be bigger than the Olympic gold won by Canada last winter. It will be to no one's surprise that the celebration will be larger, and last longer, if the Canucks can cash in.

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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 6:05 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final: Canucks vs. Bruins

Malhotra remains 'day-to-day' for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- For the third consecutive day injured Canucks center Manny Malhotra did not skate with his teammates. Coach Alain Vigneault maintained the 31-year-old is "day-to-day."

Malhotra last skated with his teammates on Monday participating in a 40-minute scrimmage, and was then paired alongside Maxim Lapierre on a penalty-killing unit as the Canucks worked on their special teams.

The former first-round pick of the New York Rangers began skating with his teammates, wearing a tracksuit, on May 12 and steadily progressed to the point where he was in full gear participating in entire on-ice workouts.

The Mississauga native last played March 16 when he was struck in the eye by a deflected puck. He’s undergone two separate procedures on his left eye, and was cleared for contact late last week.

Malhotra had 11 goals and 30 points in 72 regular season games with Vancouver.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.19.2011 / 2:10 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Highlights of the night

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks had their way with the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, beating the visitors 7-3 to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Here are some of the highlights:

The Turning Point: At 12:05 of the second period, with the game tied 2-2, Chris Higgins hit Kevin Bieksa with a pass in stride through the neutral zone. The man they call 'Juice' made no mistake on his breakaway, beating Antti Niemi low glove-side for his third of these playoffs.

Vancouver would go on to score four more in the third before Ben Eager got the Sharks' third of the night.

The Save: With 2:26 remaining in the second Henrik Sedin feathered a pass cross-ice to defenseman Alexander Edler. However, Niemi came up with a huge right pad save to keep his team in it, and maintain the one-goal game.

The Quote: "(Kevin Bieksa's) a phony. He goes after our top players. He's been asked many times, by lots of players throughout the League (to fight), and he's declined. -- Sharks forward Ben Eager on Bieksa electing to fight Patrick Marleau

Player of the Game: Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa had a big night in the team's Game 2 win. He finished with a "Gordie Howe hat trick," collecting a goal, assist and a fight. Bieksa also had five hits in 18:55 of ice time.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.18.2011 / 10:26 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Samuelsson update Thursday?

VANCOUVER – Expect an update on injured Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson on Thursday.

According to a source, the 34-year-old Swede is expected to be out of action for a while. It has not been confirmed, but it's believed Samuelsson has undergone some type of surgery.

On Wednesday morning, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault told the media that Samuelsson would not travel to San Jose for Games 3 and 4.

Samuelsson suffered a lower-body injury in mid-March during a loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. It's believed Samuelsson re-aggravated the injury during the Canucks' Game 5 loss to the Nashville Predators. He has not played since.

The former Detroit Red Wing also missed Game 1 of the Chicago series, but the team said it was a case of the flu at the time.

Samuelsson had 18 goals and 50 points during the regular season and added a goal and two assists during the playoffs.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.18.2011 / 3:25 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Sharks know they must shoot to score

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The San Jose Sharks led the League in shots with over 2,800 during the regular season and admit it was a big part of their game, but on Sunday night they were outshot 13-7 in the third period and 38-29 overall.

Part of the reason the Nashville Predators were able to push the Canucks to six games in the second round was because of their ability to get lucky bounces from bad angles -- putting pucks on net from all areas of the ice.

The tactic is something the Sharks say they need to do a better job of tonight.

"We pride ourselves on getting a lot of shots and not giving up that many, lately it's kind of been the opposite so we definitely want to get shots on net," said Devin Setoguchi, who had three shots on goal in Game 1. "On a big goalie like (Roberto Luongo), you need to get a lot of shots in because they're so good."

The Sharks seemed to be putting pucks on net from all angles on Luongo early in the Canucks' 3-2 win, with 10 shots through the opening 20, but as the game wore on the Canucks took over and the Sharks had just 19 shots on goal in the final 40 minutes.

"They had the puck most of the third period, they were able to control the play and, for us, part of controlling the game is getting pucks on net and then getting rebounds," said Kyle Wellwood, who had just one shot on goal. "That's going to be a staple of the series for us."

Sixteen of the Sharks' 29 shots came from their top six forwards in the Game 1 loss including five each for Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.

"We led the League in shots because we had the puck and we were able to create chances all over the ice," Wellwood said. "We didn't do that the second half of the first game, so we're hoping we'll have enough energy to mount a strong game tonight."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan says the shot totals is directly related to getting pucks in deep behind the Canucks defense and winning battles on the forecheck.

"If the puck is not on your tape, you can't shoot it," he said. "We feel at this time of the year, you look at the (Tampa Bay-Boston) game last night, pucks going to the net from everywhere. 
 
"It's very hard to defend a shot. If it comes off a goaltender, nobody knows where it's going. It's easier to be on the offensive than the defensive. The more it gets there, the more opportunities you have to play in the opposition's end."
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.17.2011 / 7:12 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Twitter not for 'Juice'

VANCOUVER -- There will be no tweeting from 'Juice' -- at least not anytime soon.

An online petition or 'Twitition' to get Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who is known to his teammates as 'Juice', on the popular social networking site Twitter is currently circulating on Twitition.com.

As of 3:30 p.m. PT, the Twitition had 383 signatures. However, those may be 383 disappointed Canucks fans as Bieksa told the media on Tuesday afternoon he has no plans on joining.

"There's a petition?" he said, laughing. "I'm not really a Twitter kind of guy. I don't think everybody needs to know every single thought that's in my head."

Bieksa's former teammate, and current Nashville Predators defenseman Shane O'Brien joined Twitter in the playoffs (@ShaneOBrien55), but even that couldn't spark interest from the 29-year-old.

"Shane is on there," Bieksa said. "(I saw) a couple nice comments."

Ryan Kesler is the only current Canuck on Twitter (@Ryan_Kesler) – he was helped by 2K Sports as he is the cover boy for their NHL 2K11 video game -- but he won't be helping his teammate get on the social networking, too.

"No he's not a tweeter," said Kesler, who currently has 39, 913 followers.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis is also on Twitter (@GMMikeGillis), but he is aided by the Canucks PR staff.
Dan Hamhuis, who often keeps to him self, felt the need to jump into the debate on Tuesday, which drew laughter from all in attendance.

"I currently don't tweet," he said. "I'm not too aware of what's going on there, but it sounds interesting. What's the proposal?"

Perhaps Canucks fans are targeting their Twitition at the wrong blue liner.

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Posted On Monday, 05.16.2011 / 12:56 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Highlights of the night

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks opened up the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 win at Rogers Arena on Sunday night.

Here are some of the highlights:

The Hit:
Vancouver out-hit San Jose by a 38-26 margin, with the biggest one going to Chris Higgins in the middle period. The Canucks' forward, who has been limping all week as a result of blocking a shot off his left foot, caught Joe Pavelski with a huge hit just outside the Sharks blue line. Pavelski appeared to be struggling to gain control of the puck when he was run over by Higgins. Higgins finished the night tied for a team-high five hits. 

The Turning Point:
With about three minutes remaining in the second period the Canucks had a number of chances in-close on Antti Niemi, including Ryan Kesler, who could not get the puck past Niemi's right pad. Despite not scoring, the flurry, which generated seven shots for Vancouver, turned the tide of the game. The Canucks went on to score twice in a 1:19 span of the third to seal a come from behind victory.

The Save:
Despite being out-shot 38-20 by the Canucks, the biggest save of the night belonged to Niemi. After Kesler failed the find the back of the net late in the second with Niemi down and out, Raffi Torres hit Jannik Hansen with a perfect pass; however, Niemi managed to get his left pad on the Canucks' forward's shot, preserving the Sharks 2-1 lead at the time.

The Quote:
"It started with the ears and worked all the way through the body. We were like dogs chasing cars down the freeway."

-- Sharks coach Todd McLellan on the fatigue his team faced in the third

Player of the Game:
For all the criticism he faced in the second round when he scored just a single goal (an empty-netter at that), Canucks captain Henrik Sedin looked like his old self Sunday night picking up the game-winner.  Henrik received a pass from Christian Ehrhoff as he was cutting across the net and beat Niemi -- who was down and out -- with a backhand shot for the eventual game-winner.  Henrik finished the night with a goal and an assist and won 12-of-17 draws in the face-off circle.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.14.2011 / 6:39 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Bieksa throws dagger at Wellwood

VANCOUVER, B.C. – After engaging in a war of words with Chicago's John Scott in the first round of these playoffs, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa was told to keep his mouth shut during the Nashville series.

"I was told not to make this series a spectacle like last one with me and John Scott. I'll let (Shane O'Brien) throw the first dagger," Bieksa said prior to Game 1 of the Predators series.

Apparently he has a short memory, as he was up to his old tricks once again on Saturday morning.

To be fair, Sharks forward, and former Canucks center, Kyle Wellwood got things started with comments made to the Vancouver Province in mid-March.

"I just feel Vancouver has a few more lessons to learn and I'm glad I'm in San Jose," Wellwood said. "I just feel they're [meaning the Sharks] more mature because they've lost a few more times.

"They're not so scared of losing. I think come playoff time this team [the Sharks] is going to be better."

Wellwood spent two seasons with the Canucks, putting up 52 points in 149 games. His weight issues relegated him to the press box at times, and at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, the Windsor, Ont., native decided to sign in the KHL.

Nearly two months later it seemed Bieksa had forgotten about the 27-year-old's comments.

"I don't even remember what that weasel said," Bieksa commented initially. "When we had him on our squad we were afraid to lose. (Wellwood) was the smallest third-line center in the League at that point.''

You're on the clock Mr. Wellwood...
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Posted On Friday, 05.13.2011 / 1:02 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Canucks recall five from Manitoba

VANCOUVER B.C. -- As promised, the Vancouver Canucks recalled five players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba on Friday, including goaltender Eddie Lack.

Along with Lack, Vancouver recalled Chris Tanev, Sergei Shirokov, Aaron Volpatti and Alexandre Bolduc.

Lack, a 23-year-old from Norrtalje, Sweden, had a 28-21-4 record in his rookie season in the AHL. The six-foot-four netminder was signed as a free-agent last spring. Lack had a 6-4-0 record in the playoffs to go along with a .932 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA.

Tanev, a defenseman from Toronto, was also a free agent signing last spring and spent 29 games with the Canucks this season registering an assist. With the Moose the 21-year-old had 9 points in 39 regular season games and added 1 goal and 2 assists in 14 playoff games.

Shriokov appeared in two games with the Canucks during the regular season registering a goal. The 25-year-old native of Moscow had 22 goals and 58 points in 76 games during the regular season in Manitoba, and added 7 goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games.

Volpatti also had a brief stint with the Canucks during the season dressing in 15 games with the Presidents' Trophy winners picking up a goal and an assist. In 53 games with the Moose the Revelstoke, BC native had two goals and 74 penalty minutes. The 25-year-old added a goal and three points in 12 playoff games.

Bolduc, who battled with shoulder and ankle injuries throughout the season, dressed in 24 games with the Canucks this season collecting 2 goals and 4 points. The Montreal native added 6 goals and 9 assists in 26 games with the Moose to go along with 4 goals in 14 playoff games.

The Moose were eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs of on Monday with a 2-1 triple overtime loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 7 of their second-round matchup.
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Posted On Friday, 04.29.2011 / 1:24 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCSF: Vancouver-Nashville Live Blog

Ballard clips Tootoo

It was the right call, but a clipping penalty to Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard at 16:35 of the second period had the 18,860 in attendance at Rogers Arena Thursday night up in arms.

Ballard, who is known for his well-timed hip checks, caught Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo just inside the Canucks' blue line. The gritty Predator went up and over, much to the delight of Canucks fans – but the cheers quickly turned to boos when Ballard was assessed a minor penalty.

"I guess I went too low, I know it's a rule, I've got the penalty before," Ballard said. "I just can't hit the guy too low. I don't know if I did or not."

The clipping call, if you're wondering, Rule 44.1 in the NHL Rule book. It states, "Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent."

For his part, Tootoo didn't have a problem with the hit.

"It's part of the game," he said. "If you're going to dish it out, you got to be able to receive it, so it's no big deal to me."

Ballard wasn't protesting the call.

"I hit him at the knees, he called the penalty and that's the way it goes, the guys did a great job killing it," he said. "It's not my call, they have a hard job to do and they do a pretty good job."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 3:50 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCSF: Vancouver-Nashville Live Blog

O’Brien and Bieksa

Nashville Predators defenseman Shane O'Brien was a treat to have, from a media perspective, during his two years in Vancouver. He never met a microphone he didn't like, got himself in hot water with coaches and management from time to time, and his off-ice antics were well documented.


To no ones surprise O'Brien was the center of attention in the Predators room Thursday morning as Nashville and Vancouver prepare for their first ever playoff match-up, which gets going tonight at Rogers Arena.


Current Canuck defenseman Kevin Bieksa spent time paired with O'Brien during the 27-year-old's first season in Vancouver and has already been warned by Alain Vigneault not to get in a war of words with O'Brien through the media.


"I haven't talked to him at all," Bieksa said. "I was told not to make this series a spectacle like last one with me and John Scott. I'll let him throw the first dagger."


Apparently the conversation between Bieksa and Vigneault was not to be talked about either.


"I had a conversation with Kevin about that? Is that what he said," questioned Vigneault during his morning presser. "I won't get into the specifics of that. That's a private conversation."


It's clear the gag order won't be on for two long between the two former teammates.


"As soon as Shane O'Brien says his first quote that rubs us the wrong way -- then it's on," Bieksa added.


For his part O'Brien took a quick jab and then turned his answer back to the real focus -- the series between the Canucks and Predators.


"Yeah Juice (Bieksa) – that guy was on TV more than I was when I played here now," O'Brien said laughing. "But I'm a Nashville Predator now and it's been a good year, I've learned a lot. I'd be lying if I said I'm not excited to play my former team and have an opportunity here to knock them out of the playoffs."


O'Brien tried to tell the media that he hadn't had any discussions with coach Barry Trotz regarding his former teammates.


"I think I let the coaches do that mostly," he said, attempting to turn away from the question. "There might be some tidbits here or there, but I'm not going to share my secrets with you guys. I know I give you a lot, but I'm not going to give you that much."


All joking aside, Trotz has seen a steady growth in the guy his teammates call 'OB'.

"I've heard all the things about Shane, his time in Vancouver. He's matured a lot," said Trotz. I think there is a young man who is growing on the ice and off the ice.

"Our game matures at different rates. I tell our young players the Andrew Brunette story. You're not going to make it to the NHL and always have your game in order when you're 19 or 20-years-old, but when you're 25 or 26, 27, your life and your game comes into some order. A lot of people wrote Andrew Brunette off for a long time, but 15-years later he's still playing"
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Posted On Friday, 04.22.2011 / 10:08 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Blackhawks exposing Canucks

VANCOUVER -- After going down 0-3 in the series Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said his team wasn’t exposing the Canucks for what they were -- "a beatable team."

Chicago made adjustments, and has now outscored the Canucks 12-2 in the last two games of the series, holding the Canucks' big line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows to just one goal and a collective minus-11 in the two wins.

The defending Stanley Cup champions have all the momentum as the series moves to Chicago for another must-win for the Blackhawks on Sunday.

The Blackhawks appear to have found a couple weaknesses in the armor of the Presidents' Trophy winners. First is Roberto Luongo, the Canucks starting goaltender, who has allowed 10 goals on 40 shots in Game 4 and 5 losses.

On Thursday night Duncan Keith, who played with Luongo on Canada's gold medal winning Olympic team, dropped a hint.

"Take a look at our first goal," Keith told reporters.

Chicago's first goal in Game 5 came at 5:54 of the first period when Marian Hossa beat Luongo glove-side for his first of the playoffs. Hossa picked up his second goal of the night, in similar fashion, at 1:26 of the second period.

The glove-side arm is the one Luongo awkwardly fell on in Game 4 while making a save off of Bryan Bickell with just 25 seconds remaining in the first period. The Canucks maintained that Luongo was 100 percent healthy when he was given the day off from practice on Wednesday in Vancouver.

Additionally, once the Blackhawks have managed to build a lead, there's no looking back. Chicago outscored the Canucks 4-1 through 40 minutes at the United Center on Tuesday and subsequently outshot Vancouver 26-13.

In Game 5 Chicago outscored Vancouver 5-0 through the opening 40 minutes with no push back from Vancouver as rookie goaltender Corey Crawford picked up just his second playoff win and first career post-season shutout.

If the Canucks have any intention of winning this series, and avoiding becoming just the fourth team in playoff history to blow a 3-0 lead, they'll have to use their next two days wisely, make the necessary adjustments and be prepared for Game 6 at the Madhouse on Madison.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.21.2011 / 4:45 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Bounce back needed by Canucks

Bouncing back from losses is something the Canucks have managed to do quite well throughout the 2010-11 season, and they'll look to do the same tonight in Game 5 at Rogers Arena.

Canucks starter Roberto Luongo hasn't lost two starts in a row since February 22 and 26 when he did so against the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

The 32-year-old was ventilated for six goals on 28 shots in Tuesday's 7-2 loss and his teammates expect Luongo to be in fine form tonight.

"He's like a warrior, he's a competitor, you know he's going to bounce back and play a solid game," said Alexander Burrows. "(Tuesday) night those were good shots, good clean looks that they had at him. We just have to make sure we play better in front of him and it's a team effort."

Luongo opened the series turning aside all 32 Blackhawks shots in Game 1 for his second career playoff shutout, and then turned aside 30 shots in an impressive 3-2 win Game 3.

Luongo along with Alexander Edler and Henrik Sedin, who all had the day-of on Tuesday, were present at the team's optional skate Thursday morning.

"There's no momentum carry over into the next game unless we allow it," said Kevin Bieksa. "We come out with a different mindset, we'll play like we did in the first three games and we should be fine."

The Canucks are 1-1 in Game 5 against the Blackhawks the previous two springs. Last season Vancouver picked up a 4-1 win at the United Center while Chicago had a 4-2 win in Game 5 of the 2009 Western Conference Semi-Finals at what was then known as GM Place.
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Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 4:43 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Tickets hard to come by, even for players

VANCOUVER -- When it comes to Stanley Cup Playoff tickets the players are no different than an average fan: tickets are limited and come at a premium price.

The Chicago Blackhawks know first-hand the cost of playoff tickets in Vancouver -- the team had four B.C. natives on the team the previous two seasons while Troy Brouwer and Brent Seabrook continue to shell out for postseason tickets.

"It gets pricey, that's for sure," Brouwer said, chuckling. "But to play in front of your friends and family, mainly your family, it doesn't really matter how much they are. I want them to be here, I want them to be at the games.

"You know it's playoffs and obviously the team and the League are going to try and generate some revenue. (Cost) doesn't matter as long as they're in the building and able to watch."

Brouwer admits tickets are more available now that Colin Fraser (Edmonton Oilers) and Andrew Ladd (Atlanta Thrashers) departed in the offseason -- especially Ladd, who hailed from Maple Ridge, B.C., and had a large family contingent at games.

The Blackhawks forward has managed to cut down on the number of tickets he purchases now when he's in Vancouver, but wishes he had bought six for tonight.

"Just five (tonight): my mom, my dad, my uncle, my sister and her husband," Brouwer said. "My grandma lives in Victoria, B.C. and she's 80-years-old. I wish she could come over, but sometimes she just can't."

And forget about hometown discount.

"I wish they did, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way, and everything obviously goes towards the League," Brouwer said.

Ryan Johnson, who spent two seasons with the Canucks, is also finding himself purchasing a number of tickets for games in Vancouver.

"I've got a lot of good friends that I've met here over the years," Johnson said. "This time of the year unfortunately you can't answer every call and every text -- you hope people understand."

Johnson says it's sometimes difficult to explain to friends and family that tickets are not readily available.

"The friends that don't understand that this is a tough ticket, even as a visiting player coming in here, even as a home player, tickets aren't necessarily available by the dozens so just explaining that sometimes is a little trying."

As for how much Brouwer has spent over the past three years, the 25-year-old wasn't even willing to throw out a ballpark number.

"Too much, that's all I'm going to say."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 6:37 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Blackhawks use off day for rest

VANCOUVER -- After being physically out-played for much of Wednesday night's 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Chicago Blackhawks elected to hold an optional skate on Thursday morning at Rogers Arena.

The likes of Fernando Pisani, Marcus Kruger and David Bolland practiced along with the black aces while Chris Campoli, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Michael Frolik were the lone members of the Blackhawks made available to handle the media duties.

"Rest is always good, they've done a good job of giving us rest," said Seabrook. "It's one of those things where we've got to take today as a rest day and get focused for tomorrow."

Added head coach Joel Quennville, "That's something we decided, we'll have a morning skate tomorrow, and be ready to go "

The Blackhawks have owned the Canucks in Game 2 of the series the previous two years winning 6-3 in 2009 and 4-2 in 2010.

"I think it's just game one you know? Last year they beat us 5-1 in game 1 and the year before they beat us (too)," Seabrook said. "We got to refocus and be ready for tomorrow's game and we got to come out with a good effort."

Tomas Kopecky, who took a big hit from Canucks forward Victor Oreskovich in the first period of the Game 1 loss is unlikely for Game 2 on Friday.

Kopecky played just 2:22 before leaving with what the team called an "upper body" injury.

Pisani, who was a healthy scratch in Game 1, is likely to draw in to the line-up.

"I think Pi's got a good chance of getting in we'll see how (John) Scott looks," said Quennville of his line-up changes for Friday.

The news is better for Ryan Johnson, who was hit by former teammate Tanner Glass late in the third period. Glass caught Johnson with what appeared to be a knee-on-knee hit along the boards in the neutral zone.

Johnson did not play a shift the rest of the way, but is expected to be in the line-up tomorrow night.

Bolland, who has been out of the line-up since March 9 with a concussion, is still a ways away and is receiving treatment multiple times a day.

Chicago also made another call to the farm on Thursday recalling forwards Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri, Robert Klinkhammer along with defensemen Shawn Lalonde, Brian Connelly, Ryan Stanton and goaltender Alec Richards.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:33 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Canucks play a physical game

In order to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

After being knocked out of the playoffs two years in a row at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, Canucks GM Mike Gillis went out and improved his depth among his forwards.

Gillis acquired the likes of Victor Oreskovich (free-agent signing) and Max Lapierre (trade-deadline acquisition) to bolster his bottom-six forwards and add some much-needed grit.

On Wednesday night, both showed up vividly on the score sheet as Oreskovich and Lapierre combined for 12 of the team's 47 hits in a 2-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Lapierre also went 5-for-7 in the face-off circle, while linemate Tanner Glass chipped in with three hits of his own, including a solid hit on former teammate Ryan Johnson, who was clearly shaken up as a result.

"We definitely wanted to establish a physical presence especially on their defense," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We know their 'D' are a very big part of their team, all six of those defensemen love to jump up on the attack whether it'd be on the rush or in our end and we got to make their life challenging."

Lapierre, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline for Joel Perrault and a draft pick, was a physical presence for the Montreal Canadiens last spring on their surprise run in the playoffs.

"Max played a good game for us tonight, he brought the energy we expect, he brought the discipline and the physical game we expect from him," Vigneault said. "He had some real good experiences especially last year with Montreal, where he had a big role in the playoffs."

Oreskovich, who spent last season between the Florida Panthers and AHL Rochester, had four hits in the win – including a check on Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopecky in the first period. Kopecky left the game with what the team called an upper-body injury and did not return.

"I thought everyone played real physical – you look at the hits at the end of the game and I think that might've been the difference in the game," Oreskovich said. "Just trying to be real tough to play against tonight."

For their part the Blackhawks had 21 hits, 18 of which came in the first 40 minutes.

"They took it to us physically tonight," admitted Patrick Kane. "We got to make sure we're better in that respect – try to play physical on their defense, try to wear them down a little bit.

"I know they got some guys back there who have been injured for a while and maybe played a couple games since they've been injured so try to get on them, hit them and maybe that can make the difference."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 4:25 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Johnson had a feeling

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- After a 4-3 loss on home ice to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon some felt the Blackhawks season was over, but not center Ryan Johnson.

Johnson had the feeling a meeting with his former mates, the Vancouver Canucks, was a certainty this spring. Prior to joining the Canucks, the Thunder Bay, Ont., native spent three seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

In his first season with the Canucks, the 2008-09 season, Johnson and his new teammates swept the Blues in their first-round matchup.

In the offseason Johnson joined the Blackhawks as a free agent after spending two injury-plagued seasons with the Canucks.

"I had a feeling about a month ago that this was going to happen," Johnson said. "I just had that feeling. When I came to Vancouver from St. Louis, I had this feeling I was going to play St. Louis in the first round, and it happened.

"I've kind of been preparing for it the last few weeks. Obviously it is an emotional deal coming back to a place where you played and against friends."

It wasn't until around 8:30 p.m. ET when the final buzzer sounded on the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild game in St. Paul, Minn., which the Stars lost 5-3 to the Wild.

The Stars' loss of course paved the way for the Blackhawks to sneak in as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

"It was a long day, early game for us, it felt like the season was over and then things turned around in the afternoon and we’re back in it," forward Patrick Sharp said. "It's a great feeling, a great accomplishment to be in the playoffs -- we're excited about it and can't wait to get it started."

With Game 1 now just hours away, Sharp admits it's time to make use of this second opportunity.

"We're focused on what we need to do," he said. "We got to play a good, patient game here to start things off. It's going to be loud, it's going to be fast, and we're excited about it."

In Johnson's mind this is what the playoffs are all about.

"It's exciting. I think it's a great thing for these two teams to meet for a third time and the fans love it," he said. "There should be a lot of energy and it should be a blast."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 3:42 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Luongo takes mornings off

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Canucks starting goaltender Roberto Luongo is up to his old tricks again electing not to speak with the media after morning skates on game day.

Taking game days off from dealing with the media is nothing new with Luongo, the Canucks starter did it at times during the 2010 playoffs including when he was inundated with questions regarding former Blackhawks forward Dustin Byfuglien.

"I'm a goalie and I want to be focused on stopping the puck on game days and that's pretty much it," he said after Tuesday's practice. "I know tons of goalies that don't do interviews on game days during the season so for me it's nothing but trying to put my whole focus on playing the game."

Luongo enters the playoffs riding his best goals-against average (.928) and save percentage (2.11) since joining the Canucks prior to the 2006-07 season. The 32-year-old is coming off a season in which the Canucks coaching staff closely monitored his games started and his teammates notice the difference.

"The calmness he shows on the ice, moving from side-to-side and rebounds are not there anymore," said captain Henrik Sedin. "He's a totally different guy from last year so it's fun to watch and he's saved us a lot of times."

As far as not speaking to the media on game days, Chicago Blackhawks veteran back-up Marty Turco had a good laugh. The Dallas Stars' 1994 fifth-round pick recalled not talking to the media on game days during his rookie season.

"I did it my first year," recalled Turco. "When I was young and new, but it wasn't my choice, but I did it. Whatever (Luongo) thinks. Someone told me I wasn't allowed to talk so I wasn't allowed to talk. I knew why, but I was young and it was not my choice at that point."

Turco has a career 21-26 record in the playoffs with four shutouts, a 2.17 GAA and a .914 save percentage all while playing with the Dallas Stars.

"Everything's always to be determined later," Turco continued. "You do what you think you got to do."
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Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis