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Canucks Report - Second round match up

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Kesler
KESLER NOMINATED FOR SELKE AWARD

Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler along with centres Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, and Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers are the three finalists for the 2008-09 Frank Selke Trophy, awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," the NHL announced today.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Frank Selke Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards.

“It’s great for him, he’s worked hard all year and he’s done a lot of good things not just defensively, but offensively as well,” said Canucks captain Roberto Luongo. “So he’s very deserving and I think we’re all happy for him.”

Kesler has been voted an NHL Awards finalist for the first time after helping the Canucks post the fourth-best defensive record in the Western Conference and seventh in the NHL overall with 220 goals-against. The speedy centre led the Canucks in takeaways (74), ranked first among Vancouver forwards in shorthanded ice time per game (3:19) and was second to Henrik Sedin in average ice time for all situations (19:27). He also notched a pair of shorthanded goals, posted a +8 rating and won a team-best and career-high 54% of his face-offs (527 of 976).

“It’s exciting,” said Kesler. “Obviously it’s very rewarding for myself, but I always like to put the team first and this series [against the Blackhawks] is going to be a big one coming up.

“I think the honour is well deserved,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “He’s had a really good year for us. He works hard and competes hard at both ends of the rink and given the opportunity to have a little bit more of an offensive role he was able to jump on that and jump on the power play time. I think it worked out well for our team, that’s the most important thing and if he gets nominated for an individual award that’s great."

SECOND ROUND MATCH UP

Finally after a long break and plenty of speculation, the Canucks can focus on preparing to host the Blackhawks to start the second round of the playoffs after Chicago defeated the Flames last night.

“It’s great, it’s nice to know that we finally have an opponent and it kind of gets the butterflies going in your stomach,” said Luongo. “Finally we know what’s going on and we’re excited to get going here.

“I think it’s going to be kind of like the last game we played there in Chicago. It’s going to be physical and obviously they have some skilled forwards so we’re going to have to play them hard and make sure they don’t have that much room out there to make plays.”

The team practiced today at GM Place, with everyone in attendance, a positive sign heading into Round 2. The players know they’ll have to be sharp, disciplined and play with an edge to beat the high-flying Blackhawks.

“First thing, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to give them seven power plays a night,” said Luongo. “We’re going to have to be more disciplined for sure. Teams that can hurt you on the power play are dangerous and we’ve got to make sure that even though we want to be physical and play with that edge we’ve got to stay out of the box.

“They have great forwards, they have six or seven guys off the top of my head that can score goals and make plays. So they are a dangerous team, they’ve got four good lines and we’re going to have to be at our best if we want to have a chance to win."

“Specialty teams are always a key component to having success in the playoffs," said Vigneault. "If we can have our penalty killers work a little bit less that would be one [thing]. Obviously power play is a big, big thing. I think Chicago presents a team with so much balance, they’ve got three lines in my mind that can score on a regular basis and they’ve got their energy line. They’ve got d-men that join the rush a lot better than St. Louis did.

"We’re going to need our four lines and we’re going to need our forwards to do a really good job as far as reading the rush, picking up their defence and when the opportunity is there, hit their defence with a legal, physical way, then we’re going to have to do that without a doubt."

If the regular season match ups between the two teams are any indication, it should be a physical and exciting series.

“Their team is very similar to St. Louis in the sense that they’ve got these great, young, skilled kids that play really hard,” said Vigneault. “This team has been one of the best this year in the NHL. They’ve got an experienced goaltender that has won a Cup before, so it should be a really good series."

LAST CANADIAN TEAM STANDING

The Calgary Flames were eliminated from the playoffs last night with a 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks, leaving the Canucks the lone Canadian team remaining in the postseason. However, whether or not Canadian fans will get behind the West Coast club remains to be seen.

“I guess we’ll have the whole country behind us, hopefully,” said Luongo. “But for us we want to do it for ourselves and our fans here in Vancouver and we want to play hard and obviously win. So whoever is behind us that is great.”

“We’ve got a great fan base here in B.C. and Vancouver,” said Vigneault. “People have been very supportive and I’m sure people are going to continue to be very supportive. Anybody else wants to join in we’ll be more than happy.”

HODGSON NAMED MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER

Cody Hodgson of the Brampton Battalion was named the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player for 2008-09. Hodgson was drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

The 19-year-old from Markham, Ont., had 43 goals and 49 assists in 53 games. He has nine goals and 18 assists in 16 playoff games to lead the Battalion into the Ontario Hockey League championship final versus the Windsor Spitfires.

The six-foot, 188-pound forward led Canada in points with five goals and 11 assists in a gold-medal effort at the world junior hockey championships in Ottawa and was named to the tournament all-star team.

THE PLAYOFF SHOW: Jeff Paterson and guest DJ Dave Levinson take a look at the playoffs to date, the match-up ahead and debut a new fan video. Plus we will be giving away playoff tickets! Watch today at 3pm to learn how you can win. More

 
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