VANCOUVER -- One of the first things Brendan Morrison did after getting traded from Calgary to Chicago was buy his wife and four kids some Blackhawks apparel. The next step may be warning them not to wear it this summer, when he typically returns to his hometown just outside of Vancouver.
"They're safe, they're in Calgary," Morrison said of having his family wear Hawks' attire. "We'll just have to hide it in the summertime."
As Morrison prepared to make his first start with his new teammates Tuesday night, he didn't need any history lessons on their long and often bitter rivalry against his old Canucks team. After three straight playoff meetings, the mutual dislike is well documented.
"Nothing like getting thrown into the fire first game," joked Morrison, who started his NHL career in New Jersey but established himself in the League during eight seasons with the Canucks.
Chicago is Morrison's fifth team in less than four seasons since leaving Vancouver, but he still comes home in the summer and is familiar with the rivalry against the Blackhawks. Most are.
"I don't think it takes anybody long to figure out the history between these two teams," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who will return to the lineup after missing a game and a half with a wrist injury. "Now he's on our side, so he's got to get his priorities right."
The rivalry started three seasons ago with a line brawl and grew when they met in the playoffs soon after. It's continued to grow through two more post-season meetings, with the Canucks finally winning in the opening round last season - in overtime of Game 7 after blowing a 3-0 series lead -- after dropping second-round series in each of the two preceding years.
If the Vancouver's nasty Stanley Cup Final series against Boston last year created a new, equally bitter rival for the Canucks, it felt very familiar to Toews.
"It just seems to get worse every year," he said. "Watching that seven-game series, you see a lot of things that went on between Boston and Vancouver that happened between our two teams as well."
Things were slightly tamer during the first two meetings between the Canucks and Blackhawks this season - Vancouver won the first 6-2 in Chicago on Nov. 6 and the Hawks returned the favor 5-1 here 10 days later.
"Not every game is going to be line brawls and physical," cautioned Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. "But it usually doesn't matter what time of the year it is, they are playoff-type games and physical and emotional and always fun to play in."
Of course, both games this season were played before checking center Dave Bolland went on a Chicago radio station and - with some prompting from the hosts and a live audience - called the Canucks' identical twin forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin "sisters," joking they would never be Blackhawks and slept in bunk beds.
Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault responded by mocking Bolland's IQ and looks. Neither side wanted to talk much about it before Tuesday's game, though Vigneault explained his reaction a day earlier.
"Any time you attack two players with the class that Henrik and Daniel have and what they do not just for the game, but for outside the game, it's crossing the line," he said. "That said, we've moved on."
Whether it adds to the rivalry on the ice, Vigneault wondered how it "could be more intense than it already is." Toews wasn't as sure, but at least hoped it would bring the best out of Bolland, who has long owned the Sedin line. As if playing the Canucks isn't enough.
"We'll find out I guess," Toews said. "There's always some stuff going on back and forth in the media and that's nothing new. We all know Bolly is one of those guys that likes to get under his opponent's skin, especially this team so I'm sure we'll see his best game tonight."
As for Morrison, he has no problems with the ever-changing rivalries that come in switching teams. His last season ended prematurely with a serious knee injury suffered against the Blackhawks, and Morrison was upset after being mocked by the Chicago bench. But all is forgotten now.
"To me it's a done deal, it's over with," said Morrison, who has played just 28 games this season because of his recovery from the ACL surgery that followed. "The one guy that I made eye contact with when something was said is not here, so there's no issues."
"Yes he is," Vigneault responded with a chuckle Tuesday morning when asked if his Selke Trophy-winning second-line center would be in the lineup against the Los Angeles Kings later that night.
Asked what he made of the attention given the media-driven back-and-forth between himself and Kesler, Vigneault added, "I think we all need to move on here."
It shouldn't be hard to do given how little there was to the situation.
Asked after Sunday's miserable 4-2 loss to Anaheim what was missing in Kesler's game, the coach offered a 42-second, 88-word response stressing the center's importance to the team, ending it by saying it wasn't "the right thing to do" to point fingers at Kesler on a night after the entire team played so poorly. But only the middle part about using "players around him a little but more" made it back to Kesler's locker the following day.
Kesler bristled when asked when about the coach saying he needed to do so.
"Utilize my players?" Kesler, who didn't talk Tuesday, retorted on Monday, seemingly surprised by the question. "Obviously, I don't know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it. I'm going to play my game, the thing that's made me successful. I know what that is and if he wants to come talk to me, he's more than welcome."
The response, which was abrasive even by the often-prickly Kesler's standards, sparked talk of a rift between player and coach. But after missing training camp and the first five games of the season before returning - likely too soon, he admits now - from offseason hip surgery, Kesler has 12 goals and 31 points in 41 games, well off the career-best 41 goals he scored last season. He only has one assist - and two goals - while playing with a variety of wingers the last eight games.
So frustration may have played a role, according to Vigneault, who also carefully pointed out Monday that several other top Canucks have struggled of late.
"In Ryan's case what happens is he has shown that high, high-end level at really critical times the type of player he can be," Vigneault said. "And that's a really tough thing to be able to maintain in an 82-game schedule. Everybody is looking to Ryan to do that on a consistent basis. That's not easy for any player to do. Ryan being the competitive individual that he is will always try to achieve that standard. It's not easy so he's working on trying to get himself there and get himself there on that consistent basis."
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My focus is always just to play as well as I can and do my job, no matter where the faceoff is.