As Ryane Clowe said two nights ago on the San Francisco Giants broadcast, games against the Vancouver Canucks are going to be special this season because of the dislike between the two teams. In response to the question of which team the Sharks forward really doesn't like, Clowe said, "Right now, and probably a lot of the League agrees with me, Vancouver. They've really got a lot of players and other teams turned against them. I believe playoffs build rivalries, and that certainly started with us last year with the Canucks."
This comes after comments from Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault, who equated a Douglas Murray hit on Maxim Lapierre with the hit Aaron Rome delivered to Bruins winger Nathan Horton that caused both players to miss the remainder of the postseason (Rome for suspension, Horton with injury).
It's safe to say the rivalry between the Sharks and Canucks is continuing to pick up steam heading into the 2011-2012 season, but any expectations of a hard-hitting playoff style atmosphere at The Tank tonight will be sorely disappointed. Although the Sharks are icing what is essentially their opening night roster sans a few noteworthy players, the Canucks will be without Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, and a large chunk of their immensely deep blueline.
For San Jose, here is the lineup courtesy of Working The Corners:
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Jamie McGinn
Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray
Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Brent Burns - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers - Jim Vandermeer
That's essentially what you'll likely be seeing when the Sharks are completely healthy-- Martin Havlat, Antti Niemi, and Colin White are the only three regulars who will be out of the lineup tonight, making it the first time this preseason San Jose has loaded up their lineup with their top two forward lines and defensive pairings.
For Vancouver, expect to see a much more prospect heavy look. Here is the lineup courtesy of the Vancouver Sun:
Chris Higgins - Manny Malhotra - Jannik Hansen
Andrew Ebbet - Mikael Samuelsson - Nicklas Jensen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Victor Oreskovich
Mark Mancari - Cody Hodgson - Todd Fedoruk
Keith Ballard - Chris Tanev
Andrew Alberts - Yann Sauve
Ryan Parent - Anders Eriksson
The game starts at 7:30 PM on the NHL Network. Furthermore, 98.5 KFOX will be airing the game with Dan and Jamie for those of you who will be listening on the radio.
[Editor's Note]: There has been some minor flare ups over the past couple days between Sharks and Nucks fans, both in the comments here as well as the comments over at Nucks Misconduct. Now I'm not going to pretend that the on-ice rivalry shouldn't influence how you watch the game, or that the two fanbases should be the best of friends, but just remember that you're sitting on your keister at home hammering away on your keyboard-- there's really no need to be rude. Both parties are at fault in this situation because both parties have members who intentionally stir the pot when visiting opposing sites.
Again, the issues were minor, but I just wanted to take the opportunity to try and set a tone before the regular season gets underway and these games begin to mean something. Let's welcome any Canucks fan that wants to post in the comments here as long as they are respectful; I hope that the community here at Fear The Fin can get behind that. Just as players and teams across the NHL can develop reputations for things that they do, the comment section on blogs can develop these reputations as well. So let's try our best to welcome everyone, throw some light-hearted jokes each others way, and celebrate what we came here to do-- watch hockey and enjoy the best sport on Earth.