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Strader blog: Vancouver to San Jose

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Hello once again Panther fans….

This time I’m writing aboard my United flight from Vancouver down to San Francisco. I’m with my Versus partners Andy Brickley and Billy Jaffe. We’ll pick up a rental car in Frisco and make the 30-45 minute drive down to San Jose for Wednesday’s game 4 of the Sharks-Red Wings series.

Before I talk hockey, I’d like to pass along my best wishes to Jeff Rimer, the former TV voice of the Panthers who is now calling games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. As you may have read, Jeff recently underwent emergency bypass surgery. Now Jeff and I have something in common besides the fact that we both have called Panther games with Denis Potvin. Back in 1989, I had open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. My surgery was not an emergency, but I needed aortic valve repair for a congenital condition. When the time is right, I’ll call Jeff and give him an idea of what his recovery might be like, but in the meantime let’s keep Jeff in our thoughts and prayers.

The Anaheim-Vancouver series started off just as I expected. The Ducks used their size and speed to earn a 5-1 victory and chased Roberto Luongo from the net in the process. It was only the third time all season that Luongo was pulled by coach Alain Vigneault. The Ducks’ top line of Selanne-Kunitz-McDonald accounted for 4 goals and 5 assists. Game two was a complete 180 from game one. Luongo and company were solid and the Canucks won 2-1 in double overtime on a goal by Jeff Cowan. The Canucks won despite the fact that they were short two of their top four defensemen: Kevin Bieksa and Sammi Salo. Bieksa missed the first three games of the series while Salo made his first appearance in game three.

Game 3 between the Sharks and Red Wings was some of the best action I’ve seen to date in these playoffs. Joe Thornton is playing with the edge that Boston fans wished he had showed in every game as a Bruin. If he continues to dominate, it will be tough for the Red Wings to win this series. Detroit gets a huge boost on Wednesday night with the return of Tomas Holmstrom. He will make life just a little more miserable for Sharks’ goalie Evgeny Nabakov.

Thursday morning our crew will be on an early flight from San Jose down to Anaheim for game 5 of that series. Will it be the clincher for the Ducks? Luongo and company needed a win on Tuesday night to assure at least a six game series.

That’s all for now. Keep checking back right here for my playoff updates right through the Stanley Cup Final!
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