SALO GAME-TIME DECISION
Canucks defenceman Sami Salo took the morning skate today and is a game-time decision for Game 6 tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Salo took a hit to the groin area in the last few seconds of the opening frame of Game 5 on Sunday and was taken to a Chicago area hospital.
"Sami couldn't move for the whole intermission and was in tremendous pain," said Shane O'Brien. "The boys were feeling for him."
The team was impressed with Salo for skating at practice so soon after his injury.
"I think it just goes to show what exactly we're playing for here, and how important it is to guys," said O'Brien. "You don't get a lot of chances to play on good teams and take a run at the Stanley Cup. Seeing Sami out there shows that he wants to win. He's the only one who knows how much it really hurts."
Although viewers have made assumptions from the replay, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault did not share the extent of Sami's injury with the media, or where it is exactly.
"We can't talk about Sami's injury, I haven't said what it is, so they [Chicago] won't know where to go," joked Vigneault. "It's that time of the year when players go the extra mile. If Sami can play, he will play, and it's going to have a positive effect on the group."
If Sami is not fit to dress tonight, Lawrence Nycholat will join the Canucks blueline for his first NHL playoff game. The Calgary, Alberta native appeared in 14 regular season games with Vancouver last season where he registered one point (0-1-1) and six penalty minutes.
"I'm not sure if I'm playing, they haven't said too much," said Nycholat. "Come tonight, and we'll see how Sami's feeling. I'll take the warm-up, and we'll go from there."
Nolan Baumgartner skated with the team today but is still day-to-day with his injury. Aaron Rome did not skate with the team.
The lineup from Game 5 will likely be the one in Game 6 tonight with healthy scratches being Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, and Rick Rypien.
As the Canucks head into another do-or-die situation tonight, the pressure’s on Chicago. After finishing one seed lower in the standings at the end of the regular season, entering round two as the underdog, and losing two consecutive home games this series, it is expected of the Hawks to close the deal.
"They have all the pressure in the world on them, and they were the favourites going into this series, so we have nothing to lose," said Henrik Sedin.
Chicago hoped to end things at home in Game 5 but were forced to endure another flight to Vancouver after the Canucks put on another impressive road performance on Sunday taking it 4-1.
With little expectation of the Canucks to come back after being down 3-1 in the series, they hope to just play their game as they did in Game 5. Forcing a flight back to Chicago would ruin the Blackhawks’ travel plans, who are packed and ready to head to San Jose, the team they would face if they were to win Game 6 tonight.
"No one believes we can do it," said Ryan Kesler. "I think the only people that believe we can do it are the people in this room. We have no pressure right now. It's win a game, and go back to Chicago, and that's our mind set."
"We have to go with that mind-set that we have nothing to lose," said Mikael Samuelsson. "No one really believes in us except ourselves. You can't really say 'well what if we lose.' You have to go out there with the mind-set that we're going to win the game."
GAME DAY NOTES
This day last year, the Canucks dropped a 7-5 decision to the Blackhawks in Game 6 that ended their season. Now the Canucks are back on home-ice, somewhere they feel comfortable, but not a place they’ve excelled this series.
The Canucks have been outscored 12-6 in General Motors Place against the Hawks this round, allowing Chicago an early 3-1 series lead before bouncing back on Sunday making it 3-2. On the other side of the spectrum, Vancouver has outscored the Hawks 11-6 in the United Center. Both teams were two of the best at home in the regular season. Vancouver finished first in the league with a 30-8-3 record and Chicago close behind at 29-8-4.
"I don't put a lot of emphasis on home-ice advantage," said Ryan Johnson. "There's the good side and a bad side to the team coming home. For us, we're just trying to ignore the situation of home-ice advantage and just go out and play our game."
The Canucks also bounced back on the penalty kill in Game 5, killing off all five minors. In Games 3 and 4 at home, Vancouver allowed six power-play goals.
"What's on our mind right now is tonight," said Vigneault. "There's nothing we can do about our past two home games. We have to focus on putting our best game on the ice. We know we're matched up against a really strong opponent that has a lot of talent, skill, and speed."
Chicago’s leading scorer Jonathan Toews is tied for first in the league for points (19) and assists (13) with the Pittsburg Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. The 22 year old recorded eight points (3-5-8) in Games 3 and 4 at GM Place.
Toews was the lone goal scorer in Game 5 against a confident Roberto Luongo who stopped 29 of 30 shots from the Hawks. A similar performance is necessary from the Canucks captain tonight to set the tone for the team and keep them alive in this series.
"He's huge for us," said Henrik. We're a totally different team when he's playing well. We trust each other to make the right plays and to not overdo things. That’s the key for us."