Game Day: Canucks-Blackhawks never ‘just another game’
Still, don’t expect ‘revenge’ for last season’s Duncan Keith elbow on Daniel Sedin
VANCOUVER — Whenever the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks meet, as they will tonight at Rogers Arena, it's never just another game.
This one has added spice due to the Canucks' goalie soap opera — yes, Roberto Luongo is starting — and the possibility Vancouver's tougher players might deliver a message to Blackhawk defenceman Duncan Keith about his elbow last March 21 that concussed Daniel Sedin.
The “revenge” aspect seems similar to the run-up in 2004 that led to the ugly Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident after Moore concussed Markus Naslund. Canucks winger Alex Burrows said Bertuzzi-Moore has not been discussed.
“Not even a word about it, not even a sniff — and I would tell you if we would have talked about it,” Burrows insisted following today's morning skate. “It hasn't been brought up by the coaching staff, or by the players in the locker room, or in the players' lounge. We know what it's all about and, at the end of the day, we want the two points tonight.
“If we can get a good lick on Keith, we will. But we want to make sure it's all legal and for a purpose, which is to recover the puck to make a play and score goals.”
Associate coach Rick Bowness, who met reporters this morning in place of Alain Vigneault, echoed Burrows' comments. Keith was suspended five games by the NHL for the elbow.
“That's last year,” Bowness said. “The league dealt with it, as they should have, and you move on. We're focusing on winning this hockey game. Every game is so important in a 48-game schedule and if you get distracted, you won't be ready to do your job. Daniel Sedin said it best. Win. Get the two points. That's the most important thing. So go with what Danny said.”
Keith attempted to downplay the situation when he met the media following Chicago's morning skate. Asked what he expected, he replied: “Well, I don't know. They have a good team, they always have a good team so I'm just expecting a hard-fought game. It's going to be a tough game to get the two points. I'm not really focused on what they're going to do. We're focused on how we're going to play and I'm not worried about anything else.”
He declared the incident with Daniel was in his rear-view mirror.
“I think, for the most part, I'm a pretty honest player and obviously I got suspended and I was punished for that," Keith said. "For me, it's in the past and I'm looking forward to the game tonight.”
Amid this noise, is the aforementioned two points. The soaring Blackhawks are 6-0-1 and the Canucks are a mediocre 3-2-2. Chicago has Vancouver beaten in every meaningful category from power play to penalty killing, team offence, team defence and faceoffs.
“They're undefeated (in regulation) so that speaks volumes for all facets of their game,” Bowness said. “They're getting great goaltending, their defence is playing well, offensively they're all contributing, their power play is dynamite and their penalty kill is doing a good job. That's why they're undefeated. Give them credit. They're playing great hockey right now.”
The Canucks won't have any lineup changes from the one that blanked Colorado 3-0 on Wednesday. Right winger Dale Weise missed practice Thursday with a sore neck but pronounced himself fit to go this morning.
“Things feel good,” he said. “It's a pretty quick game out there and you want to make sure you have your full range of motion.”
The Blackhawks’ expected top three lines tonight are: captain Jonathan Toews between LW Brandon Saad and RW Marian Hossa; Dave Bolland centring for LW Patrick Sharp and RW Patrick Kane; Andrew Shaw between LW Bryan Bickell and RW Viktor Stalberg. The defence pairings are most likely Keith with Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson with Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy alongside Michal Rozsival.
Netminder Corey Crawford, who is off to an outstanding start (1.79 GAA, .931 save percentage), will start between the Blackhawk pipes. Luongo enters the night fourth in goals against average (1.61) and fifth in save percentage (.938).
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks have added a Vancouver Millionaires' patch on the right shoulders of their third jerseys, which they will wear tonight against the Hawks... Referees for the game are Dan O'Halloran and Eric Furlatt... The Blackhawks penalty kill is No. 1 in the league with a 96.3 per cent efficiency rating. The Canucks' P.K. stands 24th at 73.3 per cent.
INJURIES: The Canucks are still without C Ryan Kesler (shoulder, wrist) and LW David Booth (groin). The Blackhawks will be missing D Steve Montador and agitating LW Dan Carcillo (knee).
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