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Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault speaks to the media following a team dry land training session at GM Place in Vancouver, Tuesday, April 27, 2010. The Canucks will play the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the second round NHL playoff action in Chicago, Thursday.

Jonathan Hayward





The Canucks are now locked into first place of the Western Conference, holding home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds of the NHL playoffs.

They have swept consecutive road trips, and won a franchise record nine straight games away from home after a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. Thursday, they can clinch the President's Trophy with a win over the Los Angeles Kings, and a Philadelphia Flyers (regulation) loss against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Vancouver has five games remaining in the 2010-11 season, and to date, head coach Alain Vigneault has said that he refuses to take his foot off the gas. But if first overall is clinched Thursday, we'll see how true Vigneault is to his word.

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The Canucks close with two games against the Edmonton Oilers, and contests against the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. Feasibly, all four games could have zero bearing in the standings for both teams, giving Vigneault a wide berth if he wants to rest his stars before the playoffs.

It would be difficult to see him sitting a Sedin twin, given that Daniel is chasing an Art Ross Trophy (and history), and because Henrik is so central to his success.

But Ryan Kesler? Sami Salo? Maybe even Alex Burrows or Christian Ehrhoff?

There's a theory that letting up will lead to a postseason letdown, but take a look at what Vigneault has witnessed in the last two weeks.

Irreplaceable centre Manny Malhotra (eye) was lost for the year, and defenceman Dan Hamhuis suffered the fourth concussion of his career. Tuesday, Burrows left the Canucks bench after a head knock from Nashville's Shea Weber, before returning to score two goals.

At this stage, Vigneault's biggest fear is not the remaining slate of opponents. It's another season-ending injury.



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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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