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Canucks try to get leg up on Hawks in opener

by Dan Rosen
BLACKHAWKS (44-29-9) at CANUCKS (54-19-9)


Last 10: Chicago 5-4-1; Vancouver 7-3-0

Season series: The Canucks earned five out of a possible eight points against the Blackhawks with a 2-1-1 record. Vancouver won the final two games, including 4-3 at Rogers Arena on Feb. 4. Chicago won the first two, including a 2-1 shootout victory on Oct. 20 and a 7-1 blowout in Vancouver a month later.

Big Story: It's Game 1 of a first-round series between teams that have developed a big-time rivalry. Chicago has knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs in back-to-back years, winning each series in six games. Vancouver won the Presidents' Trophy this season, while the Blackhawks got into the tournament thanks to a win by the Minnesota Wild in the final game of the regular season. The Hawks are 5-1 in the playoffs at Rogers Arena since 2009. Vancouver won Game 1 against the Hawks in both years.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Don't call it a comeback -- and the Blackhawks won't. They realize how lucky they are to be in Vancouver right now to start the playoffs. They did not take care of their own business on Sunday and instead had to sweat out Minnesota's eventual 5-3 win against Dallas to finish as the eighth seed. However, the Blackhawks are ready to throw the regular season out now and start fresh. They understand the new life they've been given and plan to treat it with respect.

"Certainly we got lucky," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Now let's take advantage of getting lucky."

Quenneville offered some welcome news Monday when he announced that injured forwards Dave Bolland and Troy Brouwer will be making the trip to Vancouver. He's hopeful they will be able to play in the series. Bolland, who has missed 14 straight games with a concussion, is an essential ingredient to their success with his history of shutting down the Sedin twins at this time of year.

Canucks: They were on cruise control for basically the last month of the season. Vancouver clinched the Presidents' Trophy with more than a week to go in the regular season and they finished the season with back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Calgary, although the victory over the Flames required some extra time. It was enough, however, for Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider to clinch the Jennings Trophy.

"It's more of a team award than just the goaltenders," Luongo said. "There is more involved in goals-against average than just the goaltenders. We apply a system every night that is pretty effective and when we're playing it well teams have a tough time generating chances. I know me and Schneids are happy that we were able to get this done, but it doesn't come without the help of our teammates and coaching staff."

The Canucks were ravaged earlier in the season by injuries to their defensemen, but if Andrew Alberts (wrist) is ready to go they will have eight healthy blueliners to start the season. Their top six looks like Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Edler, Sami Salo and Keith Ballard. Raffi Torres won't play in Games 1 and 2 as he is still serving his suspension for delivering an elbow to the head of Edmonton's Jordan Eberle on April 5.

Who's Hot: Daniel Sedin secured his victory in the Art Ross Trophy race by contributing 4 assists over the final two games to finish with 104 points. Ryan Kesler surpassed the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career with 4 goals over the final two games. He finished with 41. ... Patrick Kane closed the season with 3 assists over the final two games against Detroit. Marian Hossa had 2 goals and 2 assists in the final three games. Brent Seabrook scored in each of the games against the Red Wings and closed the season on a four-game point streak.

Injury Report: Alberts (wrist) could return for the series but Canucks center Manny Malhotra (eye) is done for the season. ... Bolland (concussion) and Brouwer (shoulder) may be able to play during the series for the Blackhawks.

Stat Pack: Chicago knocked Vancouver out of the playoffs in each of the last two years in large part because it outscored the Canucks 24-8 in the third period. ... Kane has 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points in 12 career postseason games against Vancouver. Jonathan Toews had 12 points in the six-game playoff series last season. ... Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined for only 10 points in the 2010 series.

Puck Drop: "I think both teams are different (than last year)," Luongo said. "That being said, they are the champions so by no means do we think this is going to be easy. We're going to have to work for it. ... This is going to be a good challenge for our team."

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