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Canucks opt to skate, not rest, before Game 2

by Derek Jory
Vancouver’s optional morning skate on Saturday looked like it was anything but "optional," with only two players opting out of the light game-day session.

Defenseman Mattias Ohlund and forward Rick Rypien were the only players not on the ice, although Ohlund watched from the bench for a few minutes and Rypien was in the locker room afterwards.

Both players will be in the lineup tonight, coach Alain Vigneault said.

Asked if he was surprised so many players chose to skate rather than rest up prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal against the Chicago Blackhawks, Vigneault reminded everyone that it was optional and he said he puts little stock in what players choose to do. He also didn't have an opinion on the Hawks' decision to skip the morning skate.

Still, the fact that 23 of 25 players attended is clearly a sign the Canucks are eager to get Game 2 under way.

Alex Burrows said his team is champing at the bit to put in a full 60-minute effort in this pivotal swing game in the series, which Vancouver leads 1-0. After tonight the series will either be tied at 1-1 or the Canucks will lead 2-0 heading to Chicago.

"We expect their best, that’s for sure," Burrows said. "They came into Vancouver thinking about getting a split so that’s what they’re going to be looking for.

"They have a lot of quick and fast forwards on the other team so we have to be physical on those guys and play hard."

The Blackhawks led the Canucks in hits 21-18 in Game 1, with one particular collision still being talked about in the Vancouver dressing room.

Hawks forward Ben Eager lined up Rypien near centre ice six minutes in the second period and he plowed the forward over with a hit that earned him a roughing penalty and nothing more.

Late, cheap, dirty – those are all ways the hit was being described by the Canucks and whether there’s retribution or not, Eager is sure to have a target on his back.

"There were about three guys that tried to fight Ben Eager, I know eventually he’ll have to drop his gloves in this series," Canucks enforcer Darcy Hordichuk said.

If the Canucks can establish an early physical presence and deal the Blackhawks a few blows on the scoreboard, Ryan Kesler is confident his team will be too much to handle in Game 2.

Vancouver has beat Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin for 15 goals in the last three outings dating back to the regular season, and they need to keep that assault going.

"Every goalie is basically the same in this league, some are better than others, but if you can get traffic in front of them that’s good because no goalie in this league likes traffic,"  Kesler said.

"Then we just have to shoot where he isn't," he laughed.

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