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Canucks excited for challenge of facing Hawks again

by Dhiren Mahiban
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Anyone expecting the Vancouver Canucks to spend their Sunday in front of the TV anxiously waiting to see if their first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be the Chicago Blackhawks or Dallas Stars should know the Presidents' Trophy winners didn't give the matter all that much concern.

"I found out this morning," said Alexandre Burrows, who celebrated his 30th birthday Monday. "When I got to the rink guys told me we were going to play (Chicago). They're a great team, Stanley Cup champs."

It's the third consecutive season the Canucks and Blackhawks will meet in the playoffs. Chicago has knocked Vancouver out of the postseason two consecutive years in Game Six of the second round. This time, the Blackhawks backed into the second season thanks to the Stars' loss in Minnesota on Sunday evening. Game 1 is set for Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

Vancouver was 2-1-1 against Chicago during the regular season, winning 3-0 and 4-3 while dropping a 2-1 shootout decision and a 7-1 embarrassment at home in November.

"I didn't follow it that closely, but I watched," said captain Henrik Sedin of Sunday's Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild game. "We could've played against five or six teams and they're all pretty much the same. (Chicago) is going to be a really tough opponent for us, we've got a lot of respect for them, they are the defending Stanley Cup champs so that's the team to beat for us."

Former Canucks forward Ryan Johnson, now with the Blackhawks, added fuel to the fire on Monday morning telling ESPN 1000 in Chicago that the Canucks were dreading the matchup.

"I'm sure they were sitting there hoping there wasn't a plane leaving Chicago today for Vancouver," he said. "I can tell you that much."

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa was amused at Johnson's comments.

"No Johnny didn't say that -- he's not usually that controversial. I'm surprised," Bieksa said, laughing. "He's a really good friend of mine so I'm not going to really get into a war of words with him, but there's certainly no regret on our part -- we're looking forward to the challenge.

"It's going to be an honor to play them."

Mikael Samuelsson was the lone forward not at practice Monday morning -- the team's first skate since their 3-2 overtime win over Calgary on Saturday night to close out the regular season.

According to Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, Samuelsson wasn't feeling well, but should be at practice on Tuesday.

The Canucks will likely have a couple lineup changes for Wednesday night as rookie forward Cody Hodgson was skating as the third-line center on Monday and Victor Oreskovich was on the fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Tanner Glass.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity to be involved with something like this," said Hodgson, who was officially called up Monday morning. "I think everyone knows what's at stake. I'll be happy just to be a part of (the playoff run)."

Hodgson had 17 goals and 30 points in 52 games with the Manitoba Moose this season in the American Hockey League and added 1 goal and 2 points in eight games with the Canucks.

The injured Andrew Alberts (wrist) was part of a group of eight defensemen skating; however, Alberts did not know his status for Wednesday's series opener.

Raffi Torres, who was suspended last week for his hit on Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle, won't be available to the Canucks until the series moves to Chicago for Game 3.

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