- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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After Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks might start calling him Dustin Kopecky or maybe Tomas Byfuglien. The Chicago Blackhawks and Canucks renew their rivalry, and someone has to take over the role of Roberto Luongo's agitator.
If anyone on the Hawks' roster can replace the man in the middle who helped knock out Vancouver from the last two postseasons, it might just be Tomas Kopecky.
Kopecky is off to the hottest start of his career. He has a goal and seven assists and leads the Blackhawks in the latter category. He has at least a point in five straight games.
So can he replace big Dustin Byfuglien as Luongo's nemesis?
"I'm going to try, but it's hard to replace [Byfuglien]," Kopecky said after practice on Tuesday. "Hopefully, it's going to work out."
The numbers say he can. Usually, counting goals scored from in front of the net tells the story, but in Kopecky's case, it's assists. Five of his seven helpers have come with him in front of the net keeping the play alive for someone else -- usually Marian Hossa -- to finish. His lone goal also came from driving to the net.
"He's watched one of the masters at it in Detroit with [Tomas] Holmstrom," Joel Quenneville explained. "I think he's pretty adept at where he needs to go, and he's willing to fight that traffic and the abuse you face when you get to the front of the net."
Kopecky has proven his coach right. He's been pushed around and sometimes knocked down as a teammate is finishing the scoring play he kept alive.
"I love that kind of stuff," Kopecky said. "Those little scrums in front of the net. It's something that can get the goalie off his game. That's fine with me. I'm kind of enjoying it."
Kopecky thinks playing with Hossa means more goals will come his way.
"I always just try to give him the puck and create room for him," Kopecky said. "Every time I do, something good is going to happen around the net, and then I just start banging those rebounds in."
Hossa impresses teammates: Nothing says more about a player's abilities than when other stars talk about him in the same vein as regular fans. That's happening right now with Hossa.
"Talking with him, last year he didn't get to do much over the summer [due to injury]," Patrick Kane said. "He kind of just sat around and waited until he had to play. This year, I asked him what the difference was, and obviously getting in shape, that helps a lot. On the ice he does so many different things. It's pretty fun to watch."
Hossa has seven goals and four assists and leads the NHL with 11 points.
Cullimore contributes: Jassen Cullimore was in the middle of the dramatic finish by the Blackhawks on Monday night in their 3-2 overtime win against the Blues.
"It was my first shift in a little while," Cullimore explained on Tuesday. "It just kind of unfolded getting into the play like that."
Cullimore had taken only three shifts in the third period and jumped over the boards for the first time in overtime with about 90 seconds remaining. He took a pass from Kane, wheeled around the net and dished it back to Kane, who set up Patrick Sharp for the winning goal. The building erupted.
"When we were coming into the dressing room we could hear the crowd going crazy while they were interviewing Hossa on the bench," Cullimore recalled. "They were so loud you couldn't even hear him."
"He is supposed to be their big heavyweight and he still said no," Scott said. "But I tried."
Lineup: Joel Quenneville said that Marty Turco will start against Vancouver on Wednesday night. He also indicated that their healthy scratch from night to night will differ depending on matchups and how players are performing. The Hawks currently have 21 active players on the roster.
Start time reminder: Wednesday's game against Vancouver will start at 8:00 p.m. CT to accommodate Canadian television.
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