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Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

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Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 7:56 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia For Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, it doesnt matter that this Chicago Blackhawks group is quite different than the one that eliminated the Canucks the past two seasons.

When you put that (Blackhawks) jersey on, its instant hate in this dressing room, Bieksa said. Its a team we want to beat badly.

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Or maybe more a team the Canucks need to beat badly.

As the Blackhawks and Canucks meet for the third consecutive postseason beginning Wednesday night, theres certainly no shortage of story lines. For the Blackhawks, theyve been pretty good: two consecutive series triumphs over Vancouver and a Stanley Cup last season. They could also be getting forward Troy Brouwer (shoulder) back for Game 1. But the No. 1 Canucks are nevertheless the team to beat, and the eighth-seeded champs are, lets face it, dark horses.

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Thats probably where everybodys got us, coach Joel Quenneville said. Winning first game is paramount. Were on the road, were viewed as underdogs and coming into a building thats hard to win in. Weve played hard here, so have to be ready to be at our best.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are dealing with another problem: constant Cup pressure. They led the league in several categories, had a firm hold on the Western Conference and claimed the Presidents Trophy. But until they win that Cup, theyre never going to hear the end of it.

For the whole team, youre not going to be seen as great until youve won it all. There are always going to be questions until you win, Daniel Sedin said. (The Blackhawks) won. Nobodys questioning them. We have to prove we can win.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, dont want to fall into happy-to-be-here mode. After feeling euphoric on Monday, a day after Minnesotas victory over Dallas got them in, the Blackhawks were more in business mode at Tuesdays practice.

We want things to go our way, we want to win this series, Jonathan Toews said. Theres no working for 82 games just to make it to the playoffs and be happy with that. We want to get this series started on the right foot and hopefully move on after that.

Its the playoffs again and the pressures on again. The Blackhawks have been to the top of the heap. Now theyll play a Canucks team that badly wants take their place.

Theyve proven they can play on the big stage and play through adversity, challenges and the pressure that comes with winning four rounds to get your hands on the big prize, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. We think we can do it, were going to set out tomorrow to try to prove it. Weve worked all year long to finish first and were getting Cup champs. It doesnt get any better than that.

Brouwer close?

Troy Brouwer, whos missed a week with a right shoulder injury, could be in the lineup Wednesday against the Canucks.

Well say were hopeful hes a possibility (for Game 1), Quenneville said.

Brouwer practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday, although he was wearing a white non-contact jersey. Still, considering how big the series is and Brouwers family ties here, it may be hard to hold him out.
Patrick Kane found success with the playoff mullet last year, so he decided to sport it again. Why does that make at least one member of the Vancouver Canucks angry? (AP)
Im comfortable and confident in (my shoulder) right now that I can jump in. Once you get into the heat of the game, a lot of things youre feeling you dont pay attention to anymore, Brouwer said. The playoffs are a time when you play through a few things and for me its no different. But I feel good and I can only tell the coach how I feel. Its his decision whats going to happen next.

Mullet musings

Patrick Kanes rush to get his mullet back for the postseason didnt sit well with Canucks left wing Tanner Glass, who sports his own.

Its embarrassing. Hes kind of mocked the mullet and Im not too pleased about that, to be honest, said Glass with a smile. I dont think there are (mullet) rules, but when you do it for a few months and then you cut it off, its mocking.

Battle tested

If Corey Crawford felt butterflies when he played in front of the hometown Montreal folks last week, theyll probably be there again tomorrow night when he starts his first NHL playoff game.

Then again, considering the Blackhawks dogfight to get in, Crawfords already had a taste of playoff-type hockey.

Well find out tomorrow but there have been a lot of tough games, Corey Crawford said. Its only going to prepare us for tomorrows game.

Quenneville has been happy with Crawfords preparation throughout this season.

You have to commend him on how hes approached all these games and continued to get the job done, he said. Hes consistent and quietly goes about his business.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks drop preseason opener to Capitals in overtime

Four takeaways: Blackhawks drop preseason opener to Capitals in overtime

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena in Monday's preseason opener:

1. Alex Nylander's impressive debut

The Blackhawks have about eight to nine forwards vying for a few spots on the Opening Night roster and Nylander is one of them. After standing out in Sunday's training camp festival at the United Center, he did so again in the Blackhawks' preseason opener in Washington.

Nylander scored a goal, added an assist and registered three shots on goal in 16:40 of ice time. The offensive upside is evident; it's all about whether he can put it together and do so on a consistent basis.

2. Adam Boqvist stands out

GM Stan Bowman revealed on the first day of training camp that Boqvist will be turning pro this season, and the 2018 No. 8 overall pick had a strong preseason debut on Monday.

Boqvist recorded a primary assist on Nylander's tally in the second period and later scored a pretty goal when he roofed one past Capitals netminder Pheonix Copley. He finished with four shot attempts (three on goal), two takeaways, two blocked shots and one giveaway in 16:10 of ice time. He was noticeable at both ends of the ice, which must be encouraging for the coaching staff.

3. Other standouts

— Aleksi Saarela was on a line with Nylander and David Kampf, and all three of them played well. The trio generated seven scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick, and connected for two goals. Saarela was credited with the first after parking himself in front of the net and redirecting Gustafsson's shot from the point.

— Brendan Perlini had a strong finish to the game. He led all skaters with eight shot attempts and five shots on goal, registered two hits and one takeaway in 16:40 of ice time.

— Ryan Carpenter won eight of 13 faceoffs for a percentage of 61.5. Expect him to be relied on frequently for defensive zone draws this season.

4. Overtime winner

It was an entertaining 3-on-3 overtime for preseason hockey, but the Blackhawks came up on the losing end of it. Good thing the points don't count this time of year.

Dylan Sikura was caught playing the role as a defenseman and Tom Wilson took advantage by blowing right past him and putting it behind Collin Delia for the game winner:

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What kind of role will Andrew Shaw have with Blackhawks?

What kind of role will Andrew Shaw have with Blackhawks?

Andrew Shaw is back in Chicago, but things are different from the last time he was here.

His teammates have changed, the practice facility is new and the state of the team recently went through a retooling period. Perhaps most notably, the entire coaching staff has been overhauled and is now led by 34-year-old Jeremy Colliton.

It’s a different system than Joel Quenneville’s and Shaw is trying to get caught up to speed as quickly as possible.

"Watching a lot of tape," Shaw said. "Want to make sure come season time there's no thinking, it's just doing. Just repetition is going to get over that and watching video and really focusing on every drill and every video session as well."

What Shaw’s role will be with the Blackhawks this season remains to be seen, but the early answer is: it could be anything and everything. 

Last season in Montreal he had his best offensive output playing on the wing â€” right to be exact. But in the first three days of training camp, including the team scrimmage game on Sunday at the United Center, Shaw was centering a line with Patrick Kane.

Colliton is simply experimenting with the idea to see what kind of options he may have during the season, not necessarily how he wants to start on Opening Night.

"It's an option," Colliton said. "We just wanted to try it. He'll probably play wing, too. You'll see him in exhibition, we'll move him around. There's a bunch of guys who we're just looking to see if we can find some chemistry and where they're comfortable and where they can help us and maybe multiple positions, multiple roles, where guys can be valuable. I think that's important as a coaching staff, we want to find that out as early as we can."

Shaw is a player who can and probably will play on all four lines this season. He’s also someone who can play any of the three forwards positions. That’s what makes him a valuable cog in the system because he can be moved around basically anywhere.

"I think that’s part of what we try to build is to have, whether he’s top six or could be on the fourth line, he’s still going to contribute," Colliton said. "We want to have that sort of personality through our lineup. We have a bunch of guys who can move up and down. That’s probably, obviously the lines [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane are on, they’re going to be dangerous and are always going to be thought of as Top 6, but we want to keep teams honest no matter who’s on the ice."  

Asked what role he expects to play this season, all Shaw would say is he plans on playing the same way no matter where he's placed in the lineup on a nightly basis.

"Same thing," Shaw said. "Go to the net, go to the dirty areas, get pucks, skate hard, play physical. Same thing. Same thing I've been doing no matter where I play. It's what makes me successful, it's what I'm good at, it's what's going to keep me in the league."

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