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Don't expect bad blood to boil over with Canucks, Sharks

Vancouver Canucks' Kevin Bieksa takes a punch to the head from San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau during the second period of game 2 of NHL Western Conference final Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Jonathan Hayward/CP

In a typical NHL playoff encounter, the bad blood and hostilities expressed by the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 could well carry on and become a series storyline.

Just don't bet on it with these teams.

As emotionally charged as the NHL's Western Conference final became in a 7-3 Canucks win Wednesday, there's one overriding factor that should prevent another powder keg in Game 3 at the HP Pavilion on Friday.

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Power plays.

Simply put, the Canucks and Sharks are just too dangerous with the man advantage to take non-essential penalties. And the way Game 2 was officiated, the players have been put on notice that whistles will be quick.

"It's a [7-3]game, and that's not going to carry over into nastiness in the next game because you can't do it," said Sharks winger Ryane Clowe, who was some chapped with Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre for posturing as though he wanted to fight, only to decline. "What are you going to do? Sit in the box. The physical play will probably still be there, but as far as that stuff [goes] the refs are calling everything."

San Jose is perfect on three power-play opportunities in the series, while Vancouver has converted four of 11 chances, including three in its blowout victory at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks had the league's best power play in the regular season, which connected at 24.3 per cent, while the Sharks ranked second at 23.5 per cent. In the playoffs, Vancouver has slightly improved on its performance (25.5 per cent), and San Jose is still clicking at a reasonable 18.5 per cent.

"We feed off the power plays we're getting," said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, whose punch-up with Patrick Marleau triggered all the rough stuff. "We're not looking to be nasty."

Teams in the postseason often claim that discipline is paramount, because the stakes are so high that one ill-timed penalty could make the difference. It's one thing to claim that when a series features impotent power plays, such as those of the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators, but it's an entirely other thing when the series features the offensive talent of Vancouver and San Jose.

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At every turn, there are Olympic-calibre players ready to fill the net.

Vancouver's Sedin twins have won gold medals, and have won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies. Henrik Sedin was chosen league MVP last year, and Daniel is a Hart Trophy candidate this year.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle have also won Olympic gold, while Jumbo Joe has Art Ross and Hart trophies on his mantel, too.

Centres Ryan Kesler and Joe Pavelski were among the best U.S. players at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, while German Christian Ehrhoff has proved one of the league's most dangerous offensive defenceman after a 50-point, 14-goal season.

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault began this season by stressing discipline - Vancouver's undoing in an emotional series against Chicago last year - and telling his players to lay off the officials so as not to pick up penalties with their mouths.

"We'll take criticism, we'll take punches in the face, we'll take whatever it takes to win this series," Bieksa said. "You got to keep your cool."

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