Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

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Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

VANCOUVER Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault chuckled at the notion that nearly two-month-old comments were going to provide more venom in this Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver rivalry.

How could it be more intense than it already is? Vigneault said with a laugh. Its two great teams that like playing one another because it brings out the best in both teams.

Exactly.

All radio bits and barbs aside, this rivalry comes down to what really matters: the game. And the Canucks and Blackhawks have played their share of memorable and intense games. Thats unlikely to change tonight when they square off again here in Vancouver.

Bolland raised the rancor of the Canucks when, during a radio program, he brought out the Sedin sisters comments, along with some other disparaging ones aimed toward Henrik and Daniel. The Canucks said plenty at the time. Vigneault was particularly unhappy with the comments, saying Bolland has an IQ the size of bird seed and a face only a mother could love. He said Monday, however, that he and the Canucks have moved on from that.

Now its just onto the game, and all the vim and vigor they bring.

When you come in here, its always a playoff environment, coach Joel Quenneville said. Most (of them) feel like playoff games. Were coming off two frustrating losses (against Nashville) and we want to start this trip on a positive.

The Blackhawks have a good chance of doing that, considering theyll get both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp back in the lineup tonight. And with the addition of veteran Brendan Morrison, they bring in another guy who knows this rivalry all too well.

Itll be a test for both teams right out of the All-Star break, but both are welcoming it.

Its a good measuring stick, a good start to the last push, Alex Burrows said. Theyre always one of our biggest rivals. Theyre high-intensity games and its going to be tight. It should be another fun one.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.