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Canucks must avoid penalties in Chicago series

by Derek Jory
VANCOUVER – A week has passed since the Canucks finished off the St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Count Wednesday as an off day and that's eight days between games for Vancouver.

The time off from games was good as everyone is refocused, re-energized and the infirmary is empty, but the Canucks are dying for some meaningful hockey. A team can only practice so much before it starts to go stir crazy.

The end is near. Game 1 of Vancouver's Western Conference Semifinal against the Chicago Blackhawks scheduled for Thursday (9 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC).

Practice has intensified since the Canucks have had an identified opponent thanks to the Blackhawks' Game 6 clincher Monday night in Calgary. Even so, Vancouver has been unable to practice what they need to work on the most in the second round.

The Canucks took 26 minor penalties against the Blues, the most for a team that played only four games. Clearly, discipline will be a major factor against the Blackhawks, who converted seven of 24 attempts with the man advantage against the Flames.

"The key is to stay out of the penalty box," said Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund "They've got a good power play, very good, a lot of forwards and Ds that are talented offensively. We're going to have to obviously take less penalties than we did against the Blues and obviously continue to kill penalties as good as we did."

To Willie Mitchell, being successful against Chicago will be about both killing and converting powerplay chances. That all sounds simple enough, especially with the way Mitchell breaks it down.

"The game of hockey is all about percentages," the Vancouver blueliner explained. "We're trying to win the special teams battle in this series and how you do that is to equal more 100 percent when you combine your power play and your penalty kill percentages."

Mitchell said if the penalty kill is running at 90 percent and Vancouver's power play conversion is around 20 percent, that makes it easier to win the series.

"That's what were looking to do," he said. "Plus, stay out of the box a little bit, but still play with our edge and that'll be fine for us."


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