Updated: April 23, 2013 12:25AM
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks don’t bond over much — other than their mutual dislike for each other — but the Canucks know exactly what the Hawks face in the first round of the playoffs.
The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy — which the Hawks are on the verge of clinching — the last two seasons. Two years ago, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Boston Bruins. But last year, they were bounced by the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in five games.
“It’s very difficult,” Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider said. “Sometimes those teams have been battling for their lives just to get into the playoffs, and they’re in that mode and they’re hard to play against.”
But Schneider raved about the Hawks’ talent and leadership and said he doesn’t think they’ll have any trouble turning it back on in the playoffs after a relatively pressure-free final few weeks of the regular season.
“I don’t think they’ve really turned anything off,” Schneider said. “They seem to be going better than any team in the league. The personnel they have in that room I don’t think will allow them to cruise into the playoffs. I’m sure they’re going to go full throttle.”
Canucks forward Chris Higgins agreed.
“They have so many veterans in that room, guys that have won the Stanley Cup,” he said. “The way they’re playing, I don’t think they’re going to have any letdowns.”
No Luongo, no fun
Hawks winger Patrick Kane admitted that some of the juice behind the Canucks-Hawks rivalry is missing with goalie Roberto Luongo banished to a backup role.
“I think Luongo was a big piece of the rivalry, maybe front and center for a lot of fans to get on, especially in Chicago,” Kane said. “Schneider’s a great goaltender, too. He’s proved it this year, and he’s playing very well.”
Of course, Schneider has had his share of battles with the Hawks, too, including in the postseason. So he didn’t think the lack of meaning to this particular game would lessen the intensity.
“We don’t like them very much, and they don’t like us very much,” he said. “Whether it’s the first game of the year or the last game of the year.”
Three bad, 129 good
Perhaps the most remarkable tidbit from a remarkable regular season is that, in their first 44 games, the Hawks were only out of one game — a 6-2 loss at Colorado that snapped their 24-game point streak March 8.
Every other game was either a win, a shootout loss, or a one-goal game (an empty-netter March 20 at Anaheim notwithstanding). In fact, Joel Quenneville could think of only three periods in which the Hawks were badly outplayed.
“Second period in Colorado [March 8], first period against Edmonton [March 10] and third period against Calgary [Feb. 2] are the three periods,” he said. “You put those together, I don’t know what the score would have been [10-2]. But for the most part, guys have been showing up.”
Patrick Sharp (shoulder) missed his fifth consecutive game Monday, but Quenneville said it was “highly likely” he’d return Wednesday at Edmonton. Michal Rozsival (upper body) missed his third consecutive game.
Ray Emery (lower body) was back in uniform as Corey Crawford’s backup after missing two consecutive games.