Alain Vigneault admitted that if the Vancouver Canucks had swept the Chicago Blackhawks and had nine days off, he would have found a way to turn that into a positive for the microphones and cameras.
So understand that when the Canucks say 48 hours off between Game 7 against the Blackhawks, and Game 1 against the Nashville Predators, is a good thing, they're engaged in a whole lot of spin. The Canucks celebrated their Tuesday victory over the Blackhawks like they had won the Stanley Cup, an enormous emotional release after two years of failing against Chicago.
Thursday, they have to set all that aside and get ready to play the precision Predators, who bring more structure and work ethic than perhaps any team in the NHL.
"We had a nice day off yesterday, but we said yesterday that that series is over," said winger Daniel Sedin, who was named a Hart Trophy finalist earlier Thursday. "This group has been really good at re-focusing, and it's going to be key tonight."
The Canucks also can't focus on former teammate Shane O'Brien. The Predators defenceman had a scandalous two years in Vancouver. He ran afoul of Vigneault with his taste for the nightlife, and after arriving late for a practice last March, before being traded in training camp this year.
Vigneault has already told Kevin Bieksa, O'Brien's former defence partner and friend, to cool the on-ice trash-talking. O'Brien suggested earlier this year that he wanted to play the Canucks in the playoffs, and that his ex-teammates may not be able to win a Cup because of the pressure in Vancouver.
"I guess it's up to us to make him eat those words," Bieksa said. "I think there's nobody in that room that wants to win more than he does, and he's going to battle. It's up to us to win the series and shove it right back at him."
Based on the morning skate, it appears as though the Canucks will make one lineup change, substituting defenceman Aaron Rome for Andrew Alberts on the third pair. Sami Salo did not skate this morning, and will apparently miss a second straight game with a leg injury.