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Posted On Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 3:50 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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"
Posted On Friday, 04.22.2011 / 10:08 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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.

Posted On Thursday, 04.21.2011 / 4:45 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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.
Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 4:43 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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."

Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 6:37 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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.
Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:33 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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."
Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 4:25 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 3:42 PM

By Dhiren Mahiban - Correspondent / - 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

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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