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Canucks, Blues work out the kinks

by Derek Jory
The Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues both hit the ice at GM Place this morning in preparation for Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The 30-minute skates were about loosening up more than anything else for the Canucks and Blues, who split the season series 2-2; intense drills were traded in for some hard laps and a good stretch.

Vancouver's tone was noticeably more intense than that of St. Louis, outlining the different approaches each side has to start the series.
Both teams flew into the postseason playing their best hockey of the season and while continuing that is a must, the Canucks are under a lot more pressure than the Blues as they open this series at home.

"Everything's been said, everything's been done, it's just time to go out there and play," said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who is making his second trip to the playoffs.

The nervous energy that surrounded Vancouver's dressing room was contrasted by a relaxed St. Louis clubhouse filled with a Blues team looking to get tough early in Game 1 to neutralize the rabid home crowd.

"I expect it to the most physical game of the year," said Blues rookie T.J. Oshie. "Now that it's playoffs everyone is going to jump into gear, everybody's going to be playing physical, so we'll play smart physically on our side and hopefully it works out."

Vancouver's lineup isn't expected to change from what the Canucks iced during the final five games of the regular season; the Henrik and Daniel Sedin will skate with Alex Burrows, Mats Sundin will center the second line between Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier make up the third line, while Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Johnson and Rick Rypien will amp up the intensity on the fourth line.

The defense pairings will remain the same: Willie Mitchell with Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund with Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa alongside Shane O'Brien.

Not surprisingly, St. Louis also isn't tinkering with its lines; the team feels pretty good about how the forwards and defensemen have been playing with the team finishing 9-1-1 in its last 11 regular season games.

The top guns are Andy McDonald, David Backes and Brad Boyes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron will skate on the second line, veteran Keith Tkachuk anchors a third line with Brad Winchester and Dan Hinote, leaving Alex Steen, Jay McClemment and B.J. Crombeen as the fourth trio.

The defense pairings have Barret Jackman with Roman Polak, Jeff Woywitka and Jay McKee together and Carlo Colaiacovo with former Canuck Mike Weaver.

It's Luongo versus Chris Mason in goal in a matchup of the NHL's top two stars of the week.

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