Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Canucks draw on 1994 team for inspiration

Categories: San Jose Sharks, VAN vs. SJS, Vancouver Canucks

Story Tools

Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kesler, centre, is mobbed by teammates after his second-period goal in Game 4 of the Western Conference final in San Jose on Sunday. The Canucks have a chance to eliminate the Sharks tonight on home ice. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press) Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kesler, centre, is mobbed by teammates after his second-period goal in Game 4 of the Western Conference final in San Jose on Sunday. The Canucks have a chance to eliminate the Sharks tonight on home ice. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

By Tim Wharnsby

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks hope history repeats itself on Tuesday.

It was 17 years ago tonight the Canucks were at home with a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference final and successfully closed out the Toronto Maple Leafs to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup final.

Vancouver forward Greg Adams provided the defining moment, when he beat Maple Leafs goalie Felix Potvin, 14 seconds into the second overtime period.

Head coach Pat Quinn and several players from the Canucks team assembled in town on Monday to celebrate that memorable spring-time run that ended when Vancouver lost in seven games to the New York Rangers in the final.

The reunion also saw assistant coach Ron Smith and captain Trevor Linden joined by goaltender Kirk McLean, Adams, Cliff Ronning, Dave Babych, Dana Murzyn, Gino Odjick, Geoff Courtnall and Martin Gelinas.

The old players were excited at the fact that with a victory at Rogers Arena against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET), the Canucks franchise would return to the final for the first time since 1994 and third time in club history.

But the Canucks struggled in elimination games in the first two rounds, going 2-4. In both series against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators, the Canucks returned home for Game 5 with a chance to close out their opponents and failed. They were blown out by the Blackhawks 5-0 and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Predators.

"You can't control the opposition, but you can control how you play, your energy level, your intensity on the ice," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "That's what we're going to do.

"San Jose we know is a great hockey team. They've got different weapons that obviously they've tried to put on the ice. They're going to continue to put those weapons on the ice. But at the end of the day we're going to focus on us, focus on what we do best, try to play fast out there, and hopefully it will be good for us tonight."

Thornton is 100 per cent

For the past 48 hours, Sharks captain Joe Thornton has stated that he intends to play in Game 5 despite a right shoulder injury suffered in the third period on Sunday. He didn't alter his opinion after he joined his teammates for his morning skate on Tuesday and proclaimed himself 100 per cent fit.

"Whatever it is, it is fine today," Thornton said.

The Sharks captain appeared to be all business as his team attempts to avoid elimination for the second time this playoffs. They survived the comeback attempt from the Detroit Red Wings to win Game 7 in the previous round.

Thornton was asked if he would address his teammates before the game.

"Maybe a little bit, but all the guys realize that if you don't win tonight, you go home," Thornton said. "That's the reality of it. So I think everybody realizes this is a must win game and that's how we're going to take it."

Thornton will try to enjoy the pressure-packed moment.

"You have to," he said. "There's 26 teams who would love to play tonight. Embrace it, enjoy it and play hard. That's all we ask of each other."

While Sharks coach Todd McLellan said too much has been made of seriousness of Thornton's injury, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa was queried as to whether Vancouver will target Thornton's shoulder.

"Everybody's got one or two things that are bothering you, for sure," he said. "If you're playing the right way, blocking shots and throwing your body around, you're sacrificing yourself, you're going to get banged up. Luckily adrenalin kicks in once the puck drops, and you can play through it.

"I don't think we'll really focus on his shoulder too much. He's a pretty hard guy to hit as it is. He's pretty slippery. For me, if I get a chance to put him through the boards I do that, regardless of if he's got a sore shoulder or not. If don't [get that chance], I don't chase it."

Other injuries

The Sharks likely will have defenceman Jason Demers back in the lineup. He missed the previous four games in the series with an upper-body injury and remarked that he's ready to play, but it was up to McLellan as to whether he will return tonight.

On the Vancouver side, neither defencemen Christian Ehrhoff (shoulder) nor Aaron Rome (head) participated in the Canucks morning skate.