VANCOUVER – Boston Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic walked into the visitor’s locker room at Rogers Arena on Saturday morning and the Stanley Cup memories came flooding back.
Back in Vancouver for the first time since winning Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Bergeron said it was hard not to recall the celebrations 2 ½ years ago, both on the ice and in the room.
"Just celebrating with all the guys and it all happened here in this room, it does bring a lot of memories," Bergeron said. "And the final buzzer when you jump on the goalie and all celebrate together. Too many things to talk about, but it is obviously a special feeling."
Lucic, who is from Vancouver, shared those sentiments. But like most of his teammates, Lucic downplayed the significance of the rivalry that blossomed in that Cup Final and what it would mean Saturday.
"That's never going to go away with that post-game celebration and achieving your ultimate goal as a hockey player," Lucic said of being back. "It was cool to experience that feeling this morning, but being here now the last two or three hours you start to get more focused on the game tonight and that’s where our heads are at."
There was no shortage of bad blood between the teams in 2011, and it spilled over when they met again on Jan. 7 2012 in Boston, with plenty of post-whistle scrums, Lucic and Brad Marchand ejected, and Marchand later suspended five games for a low hit that concussed then-Canucks defenseman Sami Salo.
It’s been almost two years since that emotional rematch, however, and Boston coach Claude Julien didn’t think the animosity would carry over on Saturday.
"Eventually you have to turn the page," Julien said, noting more than half of both rosters have changed. "It doesn’t mean you forget it. It doesn’t mean the game is not intense and there’s not any rivalry, but I think the crap that comes from that is hopefully done and over with."
With injuries and suspensions, only eight Bruins who played in the Cup Final against Vancouver will be involved in the return game. Shawn Thornton, who leads the Bruins with five fighting majors and was in the middle of a lot of post-whistle scrums in the first rematch in Boston in early January 2012, is suspended. And Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly and Adam McQuaid are all injured.
The Canucks have 10 players dressing that were also part of the Cup Final, but agitator Alexandre Burrows is out with a broken jaw.
Still, both sides have plenty of players left capable of stirring the pot – and emotions on the other team – including Lucic and Marchand for the Bruins and Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa for the Canucks.
So for all Boston’s talk about completing a sweep of this four-game road trip and extending their win streak to five games against a Canucks team that has won six straight, there is more to this return to Vancouver.
"It’s going to be an emotional game and a big game," Bergeron said.
Lucic, who spent the day off Saturday visiting friends before dinner with family at his grandma’s house, wasn’t sure what to expect from a crowd that cheered him during his junior hockey career here.
"Tough to say, tough to say," Lucic said. "Obviously you know what the reaction is going to be from your friends and fans and family, but maybe there is still some emotion left from the 2011 Final."
Here are the expected lineups for both teams Saturday night:
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith
Carl Soderberg – Ryan Spooner – Matt Fraser
Nick Johnson – Gregory Campbell – Jordan Caron
Zdeno Chara – Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg – Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski – Kevan Miller
Scratched: Shawn Thornton (suspended)
Injured: Dougie Hamilton (lower body), Loui Eriksson (concussion), Daniel Paille (upper body), Chris Kelly (broken ankle), Adam McQuaid (lower body)
Notes: Rask, who watched the 2011 Cup Final as the backup to Tim Thomas, will start after sitting out a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday with a flu that has swept through the team. … Smith was sent home from the morning skate with the flu but is expected to play.
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins – Ryan Kesler – Mike Santorelli
Zack Kassian – Brad Richardson – David Booth
Jeremy Welsh – Zac Dalpe – Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis – Chris Tanev
Ryan Stanton – Kevin Bieksa
Yannick Weber – Jason Garrison
Scratched: Andrew Alberts
Injured: Tom Sestito (undisclosed), Alexander Edler (knee), Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw), Jordan Schroeder (foot)
Notes: Only two Canucks and Lack skated Saturday morning after a 4-0 win against Edmonton the night before. Sestito, who leads the team with 77 penalty minutes, was one of them after sitting out the past two games with an undisclosed injury, but it was unclear if the scrappy forward would play against Boston.