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26-13-3
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26-11-1

Canucks-Bruins Preview

AP - Sports

A dramatic Stanley Cup finals reached its climax in Vancouver last season, with the visiting Bruins hoisting the trophy as a chaotic and scary scene played out in the city's streets.

If Roberto Luongo and the Canucks had managed even one good performance in Boston, it may never have gotten to that point.

As last year's finalists meet Saturday for the first time following their stirring seven-game series, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault has opted to leave Luongo on the bench in a building that was a house of horrors for the star goaltender during the playoffs.

Luongo's fragile state was only one of many storylines between these teams in June.

Alex Burrows got plenty of attention for biting the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron in Game 1, and Aaron Rome drew the ire of the Bruins - and perhaps changed the tone of the series - with his Game 3 hit on Nathan Horton. That incident gave Horton a season-ending concussion and Rome a season-ending suspension.

Rome is likely out Saturday with a broken thumb, but Luongo's likely absence for the only meeting of the season between these division leaders is a bit more surprising.

Vigneault announced Friday that he'll start Cory Schneider, a Massachusetts native who starred at Boston College. The coach said it's a chance for Schneider to make his first NHL start in his home state, but it could also be a way to shield Luongo from a hostile atmosphere.

In three postseason losses in Boston, the Canucks were outscored 17-3, with Luongo allowing 15 goals on 66 shots and getting pulled twice - adding up to an 8.05 goals-against average. When Vancouver had a chance to clinch its first championship in Game 6, Luongo lasted only 8:35.

The Bruins lost the first three games in Vancouver by one goal before claiming the Cup with a 4-0 road win in Game 7. That capped a Conn Smythe Trophy performance by Tim Thomas, the target of some bizarre public criticism by Luongo during the series.

Luongo said the lone goal of Game 5 would have been "an easy save for me," then later questioned why he hadn't been praised by his counterpart.

"I've been pumping his tires ever since the series started," Luongo said, "and I haven't heard one nice thing he had to say about me."

Thomas figures to be in net Saturday after posting a 1.15 GAA against the Canucks in the Cup finals. His numbers this season are even better than his Vezina Trophy-winning 2010-11 campaign, and the Bruins appear even more formidable than they were en route to their first title in 39 years.

Boston (26-10-1) has scored more goals and allowed fewer than every other team, doubling its opponents with a 138-69 margin. Even with Saturday's showdown looming, the Bruins posted another lopsided victory Thursday, beating Calgary 9-0.

It was the eighth time they've won by at least four goals during a 23-3-1 stretch, including four times in the past seven games.

"To be honest with you, no one talked about Saturday in the dressing room. We were all worried about tonight," Bergeron said. "That's the approach we've had all year and now our next job is Saturday - so now we really have to worry about (Vancouver). It's going to be a tough game."

The Canucks (25-13-3) rank second in the league in scoring and also have been riding a surge after a mediocre start. They're 16-4-2 in their last 22 after Wednesday's 3-0 win over Minnesota, anchored by Luongo's 28 saves.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin are again among the league scoring leaders, but they were often flummoxed by Thomas and Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara during the Cup finals. The twins combined for five points in the series - only one for Henrik.

"Our line is there to score, and we couldn't score," Henrik Sedin said after Game 7. "We take a lot of blame for that. They got a great team. We had to beat five guys all the time, and when we did that they had Thomas. We couldn't beat him, and that's what we got to live with."

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