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Canucks need better start to close out Hawks

by Dhiren Mahiban
VANCOUVER -- Expect it to be loud and expect the bodies to be flying on Thursday night as the Canucks look for the second time to close out their best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal-round series with the Blackhawks in Game 5 at Rogers Arena.

"It's very important," Ryan Kesler said of setting the tone early. "We got to have a good start and we got to continue it for 60 minutes."

In Games 1 and 2 the Canucks came out physical in the early going, hitting the Blackhawks at every opportunity. Vancouver out-hit Chicago 92-61 and took a 2-0 series lead heading to the Windy City.

Chicago responded much better in Games 3 and 4, out-hitting Vancouver 44-33 in a 7-2 win on Tuesday to extend the series.

"With Bolly (Dave Bolland) back I think it gave us all four of our offensive lines, more balance and I think every line played with more energy, and more efficiency," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "When you do that, physical play comes in, we're rolling four lines and everyone just kind of keeps their legs moving and stays energized out there.

"We want to do that again tonight, we know they're going to come out harder early and we got to make sure we're ready to match that effort."

After averaging just 26 hits per game during the regular season the Canucks came out in Game 1 and out-hit the Blackhawks 47-21, led by defenseman Alexander Edler and fourth-line center Maxim Lapierre.

Setting the physical tone early is important regardless of whether it results in pucks behind Corey Crawford, according to Henrik Sedin.

"It's going to be big, especially the way you play," said the Canucks captain. "You could give up goals either way, but if you come out and play hard and show that you're in the game -- it goes a long way."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is expecting more of the same tonight as the two teams have combined for 306 hits through the first 240 minutes of the series.

"It's been a physical series so far," Kane said. "They brought it the first couple games in their building, we've been trying to match pretty much ever since. It got a little chippy at the end of (Game 4), but it's a rivalry, it's going to happen, so it's good to see us pick up the physical play, for sure."

For Canucks coach Alain Vigneault it's more than just the physical play that needs to be better Thursday night.

"There's a lot of things that we need to do tonight -- obviously, when the opportunity is there to finish, we should finish our checks," he said. "I think our puck management is one of the key things that we have to do tonight. Manage the puck better in all three zones."
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