CHICAGO -- Some might consider it hockey's version of a death wish, but the Vancouver Canucks have made no secret of the fact they want another crack at the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now that Saturday night's Game 1 in the Western Conference Semifinals is quickly approaching, the Canucks are tired of waiting. Their coach, Alain Vigneault, tried to explain the feeling after Friday's afternoon practice at the United Center.
"Obviously, wishing to play the Blackhawks would not make you a real smart person," he said. "They're an outstanding team. But that being said, we're very motivated. We were disappointed in how things ended last year. We've wanted another kick at them. We've got that opportunity and I think we're ready for that challenge."
Forward Ryan Kesler and other Canucks are growing weary of talking and want to drop the puck.
"I thought we were only going to get a couple days off, and here it ended up being a week," Kesler said. "I think every guy in here's itching to get going again."
Forward Mikael Samuelsson is definitely one of them. He skated on Friday and said that he would play in Game 1 despite some pain in his back that cropped up recently.
"The last couple of days really helped me," Samuelsson said. "That's what I wanted."
Against Los Angeles in the conference quarterfinals, Samuelsson was moved to a line with twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, to great success. He scored 7 goals in the series, tallied a team-leading 11 points and credited it to his linemates.
"(I'm) playing confident and playing with good players. That's pretty much it," he said. "I'm not doing anything different."
Vigneault said that line will be kept intact to start the series, which has been talked about at length inside both teams' locker rooms.
"Obviously you don't want to be throwing daggers at the other team," said forward Alex Burrows, who was replaced on the Sedin line by Samuelsson. "We're just going about our business and focusing on what we've got to do. Obviously it's nice to play the Hawks and have another kick at the can, but we would have been just as happy to face any other team."
Luongo not scared of UC -- Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo broke down in tears the last time he was in Chicago's United Center for a playoff game.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane recorded a hat trick in a 7-5 Chicago win that clinched last season's Western Conference Semifinal series. This season, Luongo went 1-1 in the building, winning 3-2 on Oct. 21 and giving up five goals on 14 shots in a 6-3 Hawks win on March 5.
On Friday, Luongo was asked about his feelings of being back in the UC.
"I think I won a game here this season, no?" he said. "It's exciting playing here. Great crowd. Lots of excitement and loud. It's a playoff atmosphere … but by no means am I intimidated to play here."
The veteran goalie has also had enough talk about 6-foot-4, 257-pound Hawks forward Dustin Byfuglien being moved back to forward and camping in front of him for this series like he did a year ago, to the consternation of Luongo.
"I'm not going to get into the whole Byfuglien thing," Luongo said. "He's a guy who stands in front of the net just like any other guy on any other team."
What bad press? -- Some analysts and writers have assessed the weakest link of Vancouver to be the Canucks' defensemen, but Kevin Bieksa isn't paying attention.
"What if we don't ever read about that?" he said. "I've heard things. I haven't heard a whole lot. I don't care, to tell you the truth. I don't really care what people are saying about our defense. I only care about what the guys in this room think and we're a confident group."
Johnson update -- Vigneault said that center Ryan Johnson (broken foot) is still day to day for Game 1 after skating with the team in Friday's practice.