Game 2 pivotal for Canucks, Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Sharp crashes into Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo during the...

Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Sharp crashes into Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo during the third period in Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia April 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Next game wins?

Neither the Vancouver Canucks nor Chicago Blackhawks will admit it, but the winner of Game 2 in their Western Conference quarterfinal tonight will have the series in a death grip.

A Canucks win puts them up 2-0, forcing Chicago to win four of the next five games and all but exorcizing the post-season demons of the past two years.

If Chicago comes back from an opening-game loss to get the split, just as they did in eliminating Vancouver in 2009 and 2010, the champs have all the momentum heading home. And the in-flight movie on Vancouver's charter will be "Here We Go Again."

"They're the Stanley Cup champions, a great team with great players who have been through this before," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said, well aware of what's at stake. "We expect a strong push on their part. We're going to have to be ready with our own response."

The Hawks are drawing inspiration from the fact they almost always lose Game 1, and almost always come back to win the series.

"We were down 1-0 after the first game against Nashville last year, and the first game against Vancouver, and in prior years we were down the first game of the series more than once," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who won't even discuss the possibility of going down 0-2. "I'm not talking about that."

But they're thinking it. Who isn't?

"We're not panicking, it wasn't our best game the other night, but we're going to come back with a better effort tonight," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We don't want to give them another win tonight or we're in a bigger hole. This is definitely a game where we'll be playing with a lot more urgency."

It's hard to imagine the Blackhawks playing with any less than they displayed in the early going of Game 1. They seemed to gain strength as the game wore on but couldn't solve Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and let the opener get away. Take one period off against a team like Vancouver and they'll make you pay.

"I think the wakeup call already happened," said Patrick Kane, adding they can't lose this one. "There's a big difference between 1-1 and 0-2. For us, we're pretty confident in here. We want to prove we can compete with these guys."

In Game 1, the Blackhawks were outshot 47-21. It's an area of their game they've been stressing for the past two days, so expect the boards to be rattling all night.

"Against a good team like that there are going to be times when they push back," Vancouver's Tanner Glass said. "They have a lot of guys in there with a lot of pride."

LATE HITS: With Tomas Kopecky out for Chicago, Fernando Pisani will draw in. It will be his first game since he shot the lights out in Edmonton's run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, scoring 14 goals including the short-handed overtime winner in Game 5 of the final.

"It's always difficult when you're not playing," said Pisani, a healthy scratch in Game 1. "I'm getting an opportunity tonight and I just want to try to make the most of it. It has been a long time for me, I'm excited to get back into it -- hopefully it works out."

Canuck Raffi Torres, suspended for the first two games of the series, didn't skate Friday morning. He has food poisoning but should be ready for Game 3 ... In keeping with playoff secrecy, Quenneville wouldn't say what's wrong with Kopecky. He won't even narrow it down to upper or lower body. "It's somewhere." is all he'd divulge.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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