THE BATTLE BEGINS
The Canucks' 2009 Stanley Cup Playoff journey starts tonight at GM Place as the team takes on the St. Louis Blues. The city is buzzing and the players are excited to hit the ice for the start of their postseason.
“I think our team is just anxious to get it started,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “We’ve had a few days here in between games. There’s a lot of excitement in this city right now and we’re using the same mentality that we’ve been using which is one game at a time. And we’re looking forward to putting our best game on the ice tonight.”
Both teams ended their regular seasons on high notes and hope to continue their hot streaks tonight. The season series ended even with two wins and two losses apiece, predicting a tight playoff round.
The Canucks look to stick to their strengths, playing a disciplined and gritty game against the hard working St. Louis squad.
“They’re a really good team, they work hard and they’re able to move the puck to get on the forecheck,” said Alex Burrows. “So it’s going to be a tough match up, but I think we’re ready for the test.
“Obviously special teams are always big, especially this time of year. It’s such a fine line between a win and a loss and one big goal on the power play or one big kill can make the difference. So we’re approaching it the same way as we did in the regular season, we know what they’re doing on the power play and we just have to make sure we get shots on the PP.
“Every playoff game you don’t want to take those undisciplined penalties, you want to stay out of the box and make sure you keep your cool and your focus on what you’ve got to do. At the same time we need emotion, we need intensity out there and we’ve got to be physical that’s for sure."
The series promises to be intense as both teams overcame adversity during the season, claiming playoff spots despite suffering injuries to star players, and are out to prove they have what it takes.
"It’s so competitive, we’re going to play a really strong St. Louis team in this playoffs here to start," said Mats Sundin. "But we’ll have a chance to win every night, if everyone’s playing their best game, we’ll have a chance to win every game.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions the first five, ten minutes of every period, and at the start of the game, especially at the start of the playoffs. We have to match their intensity and be physical. At the same time I think a lot of it is to keep playing the same game that has brought us to where we are and do that when the intensity and the importance of the game goes up. So we have to make sure we keep playing and doing the things that brought us here.”
The Blues battled injuries all year and enter the second season with a long list of talented players still on the injury reserve, including Eric Brewer (back), Erik Johnson (knee), Paul Kariya (hip), and D.J. King (shoulder).
The Canucks also faced an array of injuries throughout the season, most notably Roberto Luongo
who missed 24 games with a groin injury. Vancouver enters the post season sporting a completely healthy roster.
Vigneault is not expected to make any changes to his lineup
heading into tonight's Stanley Cup Playoffs Home Opener. Defenceman Kevin Bieksa
will resume his place on the blueline after missing the team’s final regular season game with the flu. Forward Jannik Hansen
and d-men Ossi Vaananen and Rob Davison will be healthy scratches. Winger Taylor Pyatt remains out of the lineup on an indefinite personal leave of absence.
Tonight’s game faces off at 7:00pm PST and can be seen on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, RDS, and on VERSUS for fans in the United States.PLAYOFF TICKETS:
Join your fellow Canucks fans at GM Place for game #1 vs. the St. Louis Blues. Great seats have just been released! Purchase online at Ticketmaster
, Charge-by-Phone 604.280.4400, or at Ticketmaster Ticket Centres. More