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Canucks welcome Bruins for first time since 2011 Final

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella spent the week politely chiding the local media for its focus on a Stanley Cup rematch with the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

The Canucks, he argued, were too focused on a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night to worry beyond that.

When that game ended in a 4-0 victory, Tortorella quickly flipped his script. But it wasn't to play up Boston's first visit to Vancouver since winning Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

"Didn't that happen about 20 years ago?" Tortorella asked.

Actually, it was almost exactly two-and-a-half years ago, when Tortorella was still coaching the New York Rangers. He was still behind the Rangers bench the only other time the Canucks and Bruins have met since, a 4-3 Vancouver win in Boston on Jan. 7, 2012 that produced two ejections, one suspension and enough of a letdown that Canucks general manager Mike Gillis suggested after a first-round playoff exit that his team never recovered from playing "Game 8" of the Cup Final.

So it is understandable that Tortorella, who never witnessed the intensity of the rivalry produced in 2011, was so dismissive of the storylines surrounding the Bruins' return. He wasn't stuck in Rogers Arena with the rest of the Canucks after Game 7, forced by the ensuing riot in the streets of Vancouver to stay in the building while the Bruins celebrated with the Stanley Cup in another room.

Tortorella didn't have to deal with the reputation of being "too soft" that stuck to, and in many circles defined, the Canucks after that series. Though his hiring last summer inspired plenty of talk about changing that perception.

Down the hallway in the Canucks locker room, the players were reading from the same script, downplaying this game as an extension of the 2011 Cup Final.

"I think it's been made a bigger deal outside this locker room than what it really is," goalie Roberto Luongo said shortly after confirming he would start for a second straight night. "Obviously it's a fun game, there is a history there, but that's where it stops for this group, I think. There's not much we can do about two years ago."

There are 25 players as well as Boston coach Claude Julien left from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, but several of the key antagonists have moved on or are out of the lineup. Canucks agitator Alexandre Burrows, who allegedly bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 of the 2011 Final, is out with a broken jaw. Boston's Shawn Thornton is suspended.

Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, who was suspended for a hit that concussed Bruins forward Nathan Horton in Game 3, left as a free agent. Horton, who left that game on a stretcher, did the same.

But Brad Marchand is still with the Bruins, and if seeing the inevitable replays of his gloved punches to the face of Daniel Sedin during Game 6 don't fire up the Canucks, maybe reminders of his low-bridge hit that flipped and concussed Sami Salo in the rematch and earned Marchand a five-game suspension will.

It just wasn't evident after talking to players Friday night.

"I think you guys [in the media] do a good job of hyping it up," Ryan Kesler said. "It happened so long ago. You circle it on your calendar but we played them already and got all of that out of our system a couple of years ago. There's a lot of new faces, new bodies."

Goalie Tim Thomas, whose back-and-forth in the media with Luongo about "tire pumping" became the focus of the series' final two games, is no longer with the Bruins. Just as shockingly, Luongo is still with the Canucks. But after watching former backup Cory Schneider play in that 2012 rematch, Vancouver's goaltender is playing down this meeting.

"It's just a fun game to play," Luongo insisted, comparing it to games against rivals like the Chicago Blackhawks. "It's been a few years now and we have all moved on. But that being said, there is a history there and those are the type of games you want to play in."

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