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The Duck Hunt

Thursday, 26.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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The Duck Hunt


SPEED KILLS

Following Wednesday night's game, you could probably add wind-burn to the ever-growing list of Canuck injuries.

A rested Ducks team absolutely flew around the Honda Center in Game One, testing a beleaguered Vancouver defense and swarming Roberto Luongo.

"We know that they've got a lot of speed, and we're going to try and take that away," said Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault at practice Thursday.

The Canucks weren't too successful in Game One however, as Anaheim's line of Teemu Selanne, Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald was revived from its first round slumber, combining for four goals Wednesday, and their play has certainly caught the eyes of their teammates.

"They're our top line, they score a lot of our goals and they've been there for us all year. Last night was a prime example of how they used their speed to their advantage and how they can score on the rush," said fellow Duck Corey Perry.

"It's something that we've noticed all year and I think they open up the ice for the rest of the guys on the team and they take a lot of pressure away from everybody else too."

"We never really got down on each other last series... pucks just didn't go in," add Kunitz. "And for some reason last night they did. We had a couple 2-on-1 rushes, a couple nice plays and the puck found its way in."

One of the most challenging tasks the Canucks faced in game one, was clearing traffic out from in front of Roberto Luongo. The Ducks flocked to Lui's crease like an oasis in the Gobi - it was crammed with black sweaters most of the night.

Granted, the Canucks are down two of their more effective defenseman, but Kunitz says getting to the net was perhaps easier in this round than it was in their first round series against the Wild, and when combined with their speed, the Ducks had little trouble creating chances.

"I think Minnesota maybe stayed closer to the net... maybe made it harder to get to those tough areas"

Keeping the Ducks aggressive forecheck at bay will be a necessity for the Canucks this series.


PK VS PRONGER

The Vancouver Canucks have been blessed all season long with extremely strong penalty killing.

Through the latter half of the regular season, Vancouver managed to shut down even the most potent powerplays, finishing the season with a league-leading PK, running at an impressive 86.9 percent efficiency.

In fact, it was almost something of an inevitability coming down the stretch that if the Canucks took a penalty, they'd manage to kill it off.

They haven't been so lucky in the post season, however.

Those sparkling numbers have slipped a little, down to 87.8% for third among teams remaining in the post season.

More than that however, that penalty kill that once seemed so impenetrable now seems, well, human.

Through the post season the Canucks have fallen into a mess of penalties. It hasn't been a regular line-up at the Canucks' box, but even they would admit they've been shorthanded more than they would like. They gave up nine power plays Wednesday night, and against an Anaheim team that's got more weapons at their disposal than the LAPD, that isn't good.

The PK did a serviceable job staving off the Stars, but there will be one significant difference when the Canucks go shorthanded against the Ducks. His name is Chris Pronger.

"It's very simple, and that's why they've been successful on it," Willie Mitchell said of the Ducks powerplay. "They get a shot from the point and they have four guys going to the net. You have four guys on the ice, and one guy is usually with Pronger trying to stay in front of his shot so it's an outnumbered situation. You've just got to try and stay loose and get to those pucks."

Pronger's booming point shot has helped the Ducks power play climb to near the top of the league in both the regular season and the playoffs. The Ducks are running at 25% efficiency with the extra man and have scored seven times on the PP these playoffs.

"We knew coming into this series we had to stay out of the box," said Alain Vigneault at practice Thurssday. "We didn't do that last night, we're going to do it tomorrow.

We're going to make sure that if we take penalties, they're going to be good ones."


DESPERATE FOR D

The big question on everyone's minds at practice Wednesday was, of course, when are Canucks defenseman Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa expected back.

And although, as expected, both were playing their cards close to their respective vests at practice Wednesday, it appears there is both some good news and some bad news on the injury front.

"I felt pretty good out there," said Sami Salo after practice. "I was trying to warm up there and get the muscles going, and I felt good out there."

"The chances [of playing Friday] are pretty good, I'd say. We'll just have to see how my body responds to this, obviously."

Salo is recovering from a nasty combo of the flu and a torso injury suffered in the series against Dallas.

The prognosis for Bieksa however is not quite as optimistic.

"It's day to day..." Bieksa said. "There hasn't been much change so far, so I'm hoping to have a couple better days coming up."

As for whether he'll be back Friday?

"I honestly don't know. I'd have to feel... a little bit better."