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Blackhawks, Canucks set to get Round 2 under way

Thursday, 04.30.2009 / 3:46 PM / Conference Semifinals: Vancouver vs. Chicago

By Derek Jory - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was back on the ice Thursday after taking Wednesday off while the rest of his team practiced.

The extra day of relaxation was just a precautionary measure for Toews and he's fired up to for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal against the Vancouver Canucks (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

"It's a long season and at this point it's all about making sure your body is ready to go," Toews said.

Chicago opened its first-round series against Calgary by giving up the opening goal in the first two games, both Blackhawks wins oddly enough, but falling behind the 8-ball isn't in the game plan for tonight.

"Our starts have been an issue for us, so that's something we're definitely focusing on," Patrick Sharp said.

No lineup changes are expected for the Blackhawks. Sharp, Toews and Patrick Kane make up Chicago's potent top line, Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland and Martin Havlat is the second line, Samuel Pahlsson centers the third line between Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien, while Ben Eager, Adam Burish and Troy Brouwer form the energy line.

Despite missing practice Wednesday, defenceman Matt Walker is expected to dress Thursday night and play alongside Cam Barker. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell make up the other two pairings.

Netminder Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start opposite Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.
Although Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is making everyone wait until game time to see if he's juggled his lines, Vancouver has a bevy of forwards to choose from.

Mats Sundin said he "feels really good" and is ready to play tonight, he'll likely slot back in with Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra on the second line in place of Jannik Hansen.

Taylor Pyatt also is "ready to play," according to Vigneault, and if he dresses he would either bump Mason Raymond, Steve Bernier or Kyle Wellwood from the third line, or Pyatt could take the place of Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk or Rick Rypien on the fourth line.

The Canucks added another forward to their roster today by calling up Jeff Cowan from Peoria of the AHL.

The 32-year-old winger appeared in 46 games with the Canucks last season; it's unclear if he'll factor into the lineup anytime soon.

"Jeff is a good team player and his season with his minor league team was over, so we just decided to call him up," said Vigneault, adding that his team is really looking forward to getting things started tonight.

"We've been waiting for this day for quite some time now and we're ready for it. We used our time in between games efficiently and we're looking forward to the matchup."

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I watched many times this year the series between the Russians and Canada in 1972, and he was a dominating player there. After I watched the tapes, I respect him a lot more because he turned the series around. He was the guy. In that time, he was the best in the world. It’s a big honor for me to tie him.

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