VANCOUVER – Daniel Sedin insists he’ll be thinking about two points, not revenge, when the Vancouver Canucks meet the Chicago Blackhawks tonight for the first time since that game last March when he was concussed by a vicious Duncan Keith elbow to the head.
His teammates are also interested in the two points, but they’re not so sure about the other part.
“There’s definitely some guys who are thinking about it for sure,” winger Chris Higgins said after Thursday’s practice. “He is arguably our best player and it was a pretty dirty hit.
“He didn’t have the puck at all and it seemed like it was in retaliation for a hit that Daniel put on him earlier in the game. We’ll see how it plays out, I guess. I can’t promise you anything one way or another.”
No one is expecting a repeat of the ugly Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, but Keith should probably keep his head up.
“I am not going to lie, there is bitterness, for sure,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “We’re still not happy about it and I’m sure deep down Danny is not happy about it. But it’s part of the game. I have cheap-shotted guys before, not as bad as that, but it happens in games and you have to accept it.
“We’re going to play him hard when we get the chance, but I don’t think we’ll go out of our way to do anything. Winning the game is the most important thing.”
The Canucks lost that game last March 21 2-1 in overtime, but left the United Center that night much more concerned about Daniel than the one point they failed to earn.
Daniel missed the rest of the regular season with the first concussion of his career and did not return until the final two games of Vancouver’s first series against the Los Angeles Kings
“I was more disappointed about what happened,” Daniel said Thursday. “I don’t get angry that much, but I was more disappointed. That was the only feeling I had.”
Keith’s hit occurred in the first period of that game when he delivered an elbow to Daniel’s head at centre ice. The puck was high in the air, nowhere near the Canuck winger, when the Chicago defenceman crashed into Daniel.
Keith received a two-minute minor for elbowing, but two days later was slapped with a five-game suspension by NHL VP of safety Brendan Shanahan.
Daniel said Thursday that Keith has never contacted him to apologize for the hit.
“From what I have heard he is a great guy and I still believe he is a good guy,” he said of Keith, a Penticton native. “That’s not going to change. I think when the rivalry gets that heated players maybe do things they shouldn’t do and that was probably the case.”
Daniel said he and his teammates need to focus on getting two points against a Chicago team that has started the season 6-0-1.
“That’s nothing,” he said of the Keith hit. “It’s another game. It’s Game 8 of our season and we are trying to put a few wins together, that’s all. So that’s what we’re focused on.”
It’s not like the Canucks and Blackhawks really needed any more reasons to dislike one another. Theirs is a rivalry that is among the most intense in the NHL, fueled largely by facing one another three straight years in the playoffs beginning in 2009.
“There is definitely a hate existing between the two teams and it goes back three, four years ago,” Bieksa said. “We played them in the playoffs three years in a row, which doesn’t happen with one team too often so it kind of started there. . .and in the regualr season there have been some wars between the two teams. We are evenly matched, we are usually two of the better teams in the Western Conference and there are a lot of other reasons, too, that I don’t have to get into.”
Bieksa and Higgins both agreed that the fallout from the ugly Bertuzzi-Moore incident in February of 2004 has tempered attempts at on-ice retribution.
“When that happened it made people realize we have to start respecting each other as competitors,” Bieksa said. “As a union we just went through a pretty tough four months together where there was a lot of solidarity amongst the players. You build repsect there and you have to keep that on the ice, too.”
“I think the whole league learned from that incident and when things are done, they’re done the right way,” added Higgins. “So if that situation arises it will be done the right way.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault called the Keith hit ancient history.
“For me, that’s last year’s news,” Vigneault said. “This is a new season, a new team. They have got new players, we’ve got some new players. We’re going out there and everybody right now is fighting extremely hard to get two points. That’s our concern right now.”