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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

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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 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."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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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, 05.13.2011 / 12:52 PM

By David Kalan -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

EA SPORTS picks Canucks-Bruins in Final

That mythical perfect March Madness bracket is virtually impossible to achieve, and yet for some reason most of us fill one out anyway. The Stanley Cup Playoffs may not have 68 teams in them with a one-and-done system, but predicting each series in the spring is still highly fickle business.

Even for a computer.

It didn't look like the folks at EA SPORTS were going to have that problem for a while, but eventually the dream had to end. Using their EA SPORTS NHL '11 simulation engine, the video game makers followed up their 8-for-8 first round by nearly tabbing another perfect set, and had Detroit pulled off the incredible Thursday night, they would have had just that. But San Jose's gutsy performance in Game 7 threw a wrench in the mix and gave EA SPORTS its first miss of the postseason.

Fortunately, however, this is no suicide pool, and Simulation Engine is getting a mulligan and a clean slate for the conference finals, particularly after EA SPORTS nearly made good on its prediction of three lower seeds advancing through the second round.

The third round doesn't provide the same kind of daring prognostication, but since EA SPORTS has gone 11-1 so far, questioning the simulation seems foolish, and if EA SPORTS has its druthers, Vancouver and Boston will be meeting to determine who will lift the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Canucks may be facing a San Jose team with an enormous emotional lift after holding off a potentially historic comeback, but according to the computers, Vancouver will overcome a home loss to the Sharks in Game 1 with two straight overtime victories and an eventual Western Conference title in six games.

According to EA SPORTS, the East will be decided in similar fashion, and be a closer series than some might expect, not because of its length but because of its scores. While the Bruins are pegged to grab the Prince of Wales Trophy in six games, two of their wins are slated to come in overtime, with Tampa Bay flashing some sudden-death heroics of its own to stay alive with an overtime win in Game 5 at TD Garden.

EA SPORTS will continue to run simulations after each round of the playoffs, but in addition fans are invited to make their own predictions in the EA SPORTS NHL 2011 Playoff Bracket Contest at www.facebook.com/EASPORTSNHL. Participating fans can accrue points for correct predictions with the ultimate prize at the end of Stanley Cup Final of two tickets to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa on the line.

Second Round fan voting opens today at http://www.facebook.com/EASPORTSNHL. Start dates for the Stanley Cup Final voting will be announced at the end of the Conference Finals.

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Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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