That doesn’t mean the Ducks won’t play big and physical against the Canucks when the best-of-seven series opens Wednesday night in Anaheim. “That’s how we play,” the Ducks general manager said Tuesday during a telephone conference call. “It doesn’t matter who we play, that’s how we play.”
Burke spent six seasons as the Canucks GM and rebuilt the franchise from a bad joke to one of the most exciting teams in hockey. His contract wasn’t renewed following the 2004 season after the often outspoken Burke clashed with members of the pervious ownership team.
Even though he downplayed the significance of facing his old team, Burke still managed to take a shot at previous owner John McCaw and Stan McCammon, the team’s former president and chief executive officer.
“To me its a non-issue,” Burke said. “It’s another team we have to play.
“All the people that gassed me are gone. There’s no bitterness that way. It’s turned out to be a great blessing. Far from being bitter I’m grateful I got let go because now I get to work here for the (Ducks owners) Samuelis.”
Dave Nonis, Burke’s protege who took over as Vancouver’s general manager, also wanted to keep the series focused on the ice.
“There is no matchup against Brian Burke,” Nonis said about his close friend. “There is a matchup against a team that’s a very good hockey club.
“It’s a good opportunity for our team to see how we match up against one of the best teams in the league. In terms of Brian and myself, there is nothing to that.”
During the season, the Canucks were 1-3-0 against Anaheim. The Ducks finished first in the Pacific Division with a 48-20-14 record and 110 points.
Vancouver was first in the Northwest Division with a 49-26-7 record for 105 points.
The Ducks needed only five games to eliminate the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs. The Canucks are coming off an emotional series against Dallas which they led 3-1 at one time but needed a Game 7 victory Monday to finally defeat the Stars.
Canuck captain Markus Naslund isn’t surprised some experts are picking Anaheim to win the series.
“I think we are an underdog,” Naslund said before boarding a plane to Anaheim Tuesday. “That works fine for us.”
The Ducks are well rested and playing at home, but Naslund thinks the short turn around between series could help the Canucks.
“I think it could work in our favour,” he said. “We have all the adrenaline going still. Hopefully we can keep carrying on.
“We know it’s going to be a tough building to go in and play. I think we are ready and it’s gong to be fun.”
One question for the Canucks is the health of defenceman Kevin Bieksa. He missed parts of Game 6 and the final two-and-a-half minutes of Game 7 with what the team is calling a flu.
“I’m not feeling good and had some blood work done and I’m waiting for the results,” Bieksa said. “I don’t exactly know what it is, but I’m trying to find out.”
The Canucks say Bieksa will play but the defenceman isn’t so sure.
“Obviously I want to play in the playoffs and help my team out, but if I can’t help my team, there’s no point in playing,” he said.
It’s no secret goaltender Roberto Luongo will be the Canucks’ biggest weapon against the Ducks. Appearing in the playoffs for the first time in his career, Luongo had a 1.41 goals-against average and .950 save percentage against Dallas.
He faces an Anaheim offence that is led by Teemu Selanne, who had 48 goals in the regular season, and Andy McDonald, who had 51 assists.
In the first round of the playoffs, defenceman Chris Pronger led the Ducks with two goals and six points, while centre Ryan Getzlaf had a pair of goals and five points.
“They have some skilled players,” said Luongo. “We saw what they do the last time we played them.
“They like to throw the body around. It’s just a matter of being ready and matching that effort.”
Luongo isn’t worried about the Ducks trying to throw him off his game by crashing into him.
“I’m sure they will be crashing around the net,” he said. “That’s not something that gets me off my game. It just motivates me more.”
For the Canucks to advance to their first conference final since 1994 they will need twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin to contribute offensively.
Henrik had a goal and assist in Monday’s 4-1 win over Dallas and Daniel had an assist. It was the first points for either of the twins since the opening game of the series.
Naslund didn’t get a point in the final six games.
Vancouver will also need more production from a power play that struggled against the Stars.
“I expect us to play hard and disciplined,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “If they are going to take penalties we need to make them pay for it. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”