SAMUELSSON'S A GO, ROME GAME-TIME DECISION
After missing Thursday's practice and most of Wednesday's, Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson skated with the team today in Chicago and will be playing in game one against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
The Swedish veteran leads the team in scoring with 11 points (7-4-11), also second best in the league.
Defenceman Aaron Rome also skated with the team today but is likely a game-time decision. Nolan Baumgartner has not yet skated with the team since being injured in game four against the Los Angeles Kings. Ryan Johnson is still day-to-day with his broken foot.
The fourth line for game one will likely be Rick Rypien, Michael Grabner, and Jannik Hansen. Likely healthy scratches are Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, Matt Pettinger, and Lawrence Nycholat.
NOT QUITE DEJA VU
Though entering the United Center in Chicago brought back painful memories for the Canucks, it only motivates them that much more with game one just around the corner.
"Going out there this morning kind of brought back the feelings of game six last year and how disappointing it was," said Shane O'Brien. "When the national anthem is being sung, and they're clapping and going crazy, it gives me goose bumps, and I'm sure other guys feel the same way."
Like the Canucks, the Blackhawks are a strong home team ending the season with a 29-8-4 record, just one win shy of the 30 Vancouver ended with. Being the road team in either situation is not the easiest as the home team tends to use the fans to their advantage.
"It's kind of like going to Vancouver too," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. "The fans are always against you. They have some pretty cool things in the crowd, like those green guys. I always get a laugh out of them when I watch the games."
The Canucks let in just one power-play goal against the Blackhawks in the regular season on 16 times short-handed. They hope to bring that in round two despite being last in the league at the moment with a 61.5 PK% after allowing the Los Angeles Kings to capitalize on 10 of 26 opportunities.
Chicago ranks 11th in the league for the PP with 17.4%, netting just four goals of 23 power-plays, while Vancouver is sixth with a 25.0 PP%. Even with a slightly higher PP%, the Canucks face a strong team when it comes to the penalty kill.
In the regular season, the Blackhawks had an 85.3 PK%, fourth best in the NHL, and brought that success into the post-season killing off 26 or 27 power-play opportunities against the Nashville Predators. Defenceman Brent Sopel (21) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (14) combined for 35 blocked shots in that series. Chicago also netted the most short-handed goals in the regular season (13).
The Canucks believe they are a different team this year, an improved team. With the addition of key players such as the experienced veteran, Mikael Samuelsson (7-4-11), former San Jose Shark defenceman Christian Ehrhoff (1-2-3), and the success of the Sedin line, Vancouver hopes to make history by defeating Chicago and entering the third round for the first time since 1994.
"I think both teams are better," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "With them adding [Marian] Hossa, with their young players, we're meeting a better team. But with the improvement of our younger players, our veterans this season and with past experiences, we're ready for that challenge."