Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Canucks' Hamhuis returns to Nashville

Categories: Nashville Predators, VAN vs. NSH, Vancouver Canucks

Story Tools

Dan Hamhuis, left, and the Canucks head to the defenceman's former home tied at a game apiece with Patric Hornqvist and the Predators (Rich Lam/Getty Images) Dan Hamhuis, left, and the Canucks head to the defenceman's former home tied at a game apiece with Patric Hornqvist and the Predators (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

VANCOUVER -- This is hardly Chris Pronger returning to Edmonton to play the Oilers, or Dany Heatley's nasty homecoming in Ottawa.

But when the second-round series between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators resumes on Tuesday, the quiet and efficient Dan Hamhuis will suit up for his first game at Bridgestone Arena since departing Nashville to sign with Vancouver last summer.

The Canucks defenceman missed his new team's two games in Nashville during the regular season because of a concussion. This homecoming would be more enjoyable for the 28-year-old Hamhuis had his Canucks held onto their late-game one-goal lead on Saturday.

Instead, the Predators prevailed 2-1 in double overtime to tie the series at 1-1. The Canucks flew to Nashville on Sunday searching for a way to beat the Predators' incredible goalie Pekka Rinne, who has stopped 61 of 63 shots in the opening two games.

Hamhuis warned his teammates prior to the series that there are no cracks in Rinne's game, that the only kind of goals the stingy Finn yields are when a puck has been redirected or there is plenty of crease traffic.

The move from Nashville to Vancouver has been everything Hamhuis hoped for this season. He enjoyed living in Nashville and playing for the Predators and would have stayed, but it was apparent in negotiations after last season ended that they could no longer afford him.

The native of Smithers, B.C., also wanted an increased role - something that was difficult with the Predators while playing behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter - and there was an opportunity to play in his home province for the first time since his junior days in Prince George.

"I really enjoyed living in Nashville," said Hamhuis, who signed a six-year deal worth $4.5 million US a season with the Canucks. "It's not a real hustle-bustle city. It's a little bit smaller. It probably made for a good transition for me as a young player coming from a small town and not being overwhelmed by a big city. We started a family there and we really enjoyed our time.

"I'm looking forward to playing in that building again. But the main focus will be on winning those games. It will be emotional. It's exciting. There are a lot of good friends over there. But it will be all business. I will keep it simple. I won't be doing any visiting."

With Vancouver, Hamhuis plays on the Canucks' top defence pairing alongside Kevin Bieksa. In the marathon double overtime game on Saturday, Hamhuis played 37 minutes and 52 seconds, behind only Bieksa (38:08) and Alex Edler (37:56).

When an injured Hamhuis accompanied the Canucks for their game in Nashville in March, the Predators feted their former player with a video tribute on the scoreboard.

Hamhuis was a country music guy before arriving in Nashville seven years ago. But being a member of the Predators allowed him to attend many concerts and visit various artists backstage.

But this strictly will be a business trip. This is about successfully dealing with the Predators' relentless forecheck and solving Rinne.

"They work extremely hard because they are so effective. We're going to have to be on our game," said Hamhuis, who was on the ice when his teammate Alex Burrows scored a shorthanded goal to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead, but also was on the ice when Suter scored his fluky late-game tying goal.

"It's great for a smaller market team to have this sort of success," Hamhuis added. "You'll see when we get down there that they have great fans. It will be a very loud building and the fan base is very excited about their team and excited that they are in the second round.

"They will continue to do what has made them successful so far. They play a really tight system. They are well coached. They make it real tough for opposition teams to get offence against them. I'm sure they will stick with it.

"I think they have created a good culture in Nashville. They have a lot of guys who have been there for a while and that continues through. They play a real good system and that allows them to be successful."