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Canucks looking forward to time off as Stanley Cup series opens Wednesday

The Canadian Press
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Vancouver Canucks\' head coach Alain Vigneault smiles during a media availability at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2011. The Canucks will play either Tampa Bay or Boston in the Stanley Cup finals which start on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward Author: The Hockey News

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Canucks looking forward to time off as Stanley Cup series opens Wednesday

The Canadian Press
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VANCOUVER - There's nothing like some time off late in the Stanley Cup playoff grind.

The Vancouver Canucks get to rest mentally and heal bumps and bruises while their opponents play a Game 7 and face cross-continent travel.

But it's not exactly that way for Kevin Bieksa whose double-overtime goal Tuesday night sent Vancouver to the Stanley Cup final.

"It's been terrible, actually," the Canuck defenceman who eliminated the San Jose Sharks with the series-clinching 3-2 goal, said Thursday.

"I'm in the middle of a move, taking loads up and down the elevator. It's been busier, actually. It's good that we didn't go on the road so I could stay home and help pack and move."

A renovation is the reason Bieksa is lugging household possessions to another location instead of thumping opposing forwards into the boards.

"It's nothing serious," he said. "It's just something to do in the next couple of days, I guess."

The Canucks are waiting to find out whether their opponents will be the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. They play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Friday in Boston.

The Stanley Cup final series opens in Vancouver Wednesday night with Game 2 going the following Saturday.

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault doubted the week-long break will give his club an advantage.

"The way the schedule's been laid out for the final series, I don’t think having a Game 7 is going to hurt the (opposing) team," Vigneault said.

"They're going to have five days in between Wednesday and then we play Saturday so whoever we're going to meet ... the way they've laid out the schedule will be no advantage for one team or the other."

But the extra rest is welcome.

"If you want to go all the way, you need one break," said Henrik Sedin, the playoff scoring leader with 19 assists and 21 points.

The Canucks will practise Friday and Saturday, take another day off on Sunday and practise Monday and Tuesday.

"It's no secret that we've got guys that are banged up and have been playing and been doing a great job of it," Bieksa said.

"To get the extra days is huge for us. We'll take advantage of it with some extra time to prepare against an opponent that we don’t see too often."

Sami Salo, who missed most of the season with a severed Achilles tendon, is spending time with his family.

"You get out of the roller-coaster ride of being up so high after the win, it kind of takes you back down to earth and lets you prepare for the next round," he said.

As expected, the Canucks didn't profess a preference for either the speed and scoring of Tampa Bay or the defensive-minded Bruins.

"Both those teams have strong offensive elements, play a well-structured game and both those teams have got goaltenders that can make a difference in a game," Vigneault said.

Dwayne Roloson of the Lightning and Tim Thomas of Boston are opposing netminders in that series. The Bruins were second to the Canucks in goals against during the regular season.

Both Bieksa and Salo noted the Bruins will bring plenty of size, especially in six-foot-eight defenceman Zdeno Chara, a Norris Trophy nominee.

"Tampa seems very quick, very skilled, very deep up front," Bieksa said.

"Again, great goaltending, lot of experience. They've won the Cup in the past (2004) so two great challenges for us."

The teams' styles are reflected in the scores when both potential opponents beat the Canucks here in the regular season.

Tampa Bay won 5-4 in overtime on Steven Stamkos' second goal of the game. Milan Lucic, who played junior hockey for his home town Vancouver Giants, scored the winner in Boston’s 3-1 triumph.

The Canucks expect to be healthy for the final round. Vigneault said defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome will be ready to play.

Both received heavy hits from Sharks fourth-liner Jamie McGinn in Game 3. He was assessed a boarding major and a game misconduct after leaving Rome lying on the ice.

Ehrhoff was believed to have a shoulder problem but practised before Tuesday’s game although he did not play.

Ryan Kesler, arguably the best Canuck in the post-season, caused a city to hold its collective breath when he limped to the dressing room during the second period on Tuesday.

He had been chasing the Sharks' Dan Boyle on a penalty kill and suddenly couldn't put any weight on his left leg as the two battled for position.

But he returned to tip in Sedin’s shot to force overtime with 13.2 seconds remaining in regulation time.

Kesler insisted he was fine on Thursday.

"I just had to call my wife," is how he explained his absence. "I thought I left the iron on."

The Canucks are looking to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens triumphed in 1993.

They are the first finalist since 2007 when the Ottawa Senators lost four games to one to the Anaheim Ducks.

Vancouver has reached its third Cup final in the 40-year history of the franchise but has never hoisted hockey’s holy grail.

"You see people crying when they come up to you just because we’re going to the Stanley Cup finals," Bieksa said. "It's definitely impacting the community in a large way and it's a great feeling."

NOTES: The Canucks were swept by the New York Islanders in 1982 and lost a seven-game series to the New York Rangers in 1994 ... playing host to an Olympics has been a good omen for Canadian cities ... Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1977, a year after the Summer Games ... Calgary won in 1989, a year after a Winter Olympiad ... Vancouver was the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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Canucks looking forward to time off as Stanley Cup series opens Wednesday