The Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks didn’t meet in the playoffs last spring, but that doesn’t mean the hate has gone away.
These two teams don’t like each other and never will.
Whether it’s Alex Burrows pulling Duncan Keith’s hair in a fight like in 2009, Patrick Kane scoring a hat trick in Game 6 of the ’09 Western Conference semifinals as the Hawks put up 7 on Roberto Luongo and making the Canucks goalie cry, Dave Bolland calling the Sedin twins “sisters,” or Keith delivering an elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin last March and knocking the Vancouver star out of the lineup for a month, enough has happened to make this the best rivalry in the NHL at the moment.
The Hawks and Canucks meet for the first time this season on Friday at Rogers Arena, where emotions are expected to run high again.
“We expect a playoff-type of mentality,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after Wednesday’s loss at Minnesota. “It’s an important game for everybody. There’s a good history there so I’m sure everybody will be excited. You go there and the building is alive and it’s a fun game.”
It’s the first time the two teams have seen each other since Keith drew a five-game suspension for elbowing Daniel Sedin in the head.
Sedin suffered a concussion and missed the final nine games of the regular season and the Canucks’ first three playoff games against Los Angeles, a series they lost in five games.
“You have to play hard and smart and stick together,” Quenneville said when asked if he expected anything to happen.
The Hawks saw their six-game winning streak come to an end on the shootout loss at Minnesota and would love to start a new one against the Canucks.
“It’s been a great start, but we’ve been doing a great job of putting the last game behind us and getting ready for the next one,” Jonathan Toews said. “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing, just take it one game at a time. We’re on a long road trip right now and you can’t look too far ahead. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot and have to make it tougher for teams to catch us.”
Luongo will start in goal again for the Canucks, coming on the heels of his 3-0 shutout of the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.
“There’s nothing better than a game against the Blackhawks to get a little playoff intensity going there,” Luongo told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday.
Luongo was supposed to be on the trade block to begin the season, but he has started the last three games and has a 1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
Corey Schneider, who came into the season as Vancouver’s No. 1 goaltender, has struggled with a 3.13 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault isn’t about to get caught up in any suggestion of a goalie controversy.
“I understand why this is an issue outside our dressing room,” he said. “We’ve got two goaltenders that want to play 60 games in a 48-game schedule. I get it.
“But at the end of the day they are both quality individuals. They are both team guys, and they will do what I say and they will never complain. When I call on one to go in our net I know he’s going to give us the best chance to win and the other one is going to support him.”
Luongo, 33, is just taking it as it comes.
“I’m playing hockey in the NHL. I consider myself lucky,” he said.
“I just get ready to play every day and when I’m called upon, I just want to be ready,” said Luongo, whose name has been linked to trade rumors with Florida, Philadelphia and Toronto in recent months.
Schneider could have made this so much easier had he started better, but he got himself pulled in a season-opening 7-3 loss to Anaheim on Jan. 19 after allowing 5 goals on 14 shots.
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