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Blackhawks Buzz: Team seeks quick rebound against slumping Canucks

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks


Vancouver managed only one win during their recent seven-game road trip—they were outscored 25-18—and only have two wins total in November, so it's a slightly desperate team the Blackhawks will face on Saturday. Chicago is coming off a 2-1 overtime loss in Calgary on Friday, a listless performance that saw the Blackhawks outshot 35-19 and out-attempted 52-36 at even strength. Three points out of four on the Circus Trip thus far is acceptable on paper, but Head Coach Joel Quenneville will want more out of his team as they try to hit their stride away from Chicago. They'll have another chance on Saturday against a Canucks side that hasn't fared well in their own building, going just 2-3-3 so far this season.


The Sedins have been synonymous with Vancouver hockey for nearly 15 years, and at age 35 the duo is still leading the team offensively. Daniel paces the Canucks in goals (7), assists (11) and points, while Henrik sits just behind him with 15 points (5G, 10A), including six in his last five contests. The twins are in sync enough to make any configuration work, it seems, and they've found chemistry recently with Jannik Hansen, normally a defensively oriented, checking-line winger who nonetheless has found his scoring touch with the Sedins. Hansen recorded a four-point game in Vancouver's only win during their road trip, a 5-3 win over Columbus, and his speed on the forecheck makes him a good fit on the top line.


Though Chicago and Vancouver still carry much of the same identities that forged an intense rivalry over the past seven years, there will be plenty of new faces hitting the ice for both teams on Saturday. The Canucks overhauled a large part of their roster in the offseason, getting younger as part of an attempted rehaul. GM Jim Benning made a splashy trade in acquiring Brandon Sutter from the Pittsburgh Penguins and signing the former first-round pick to a contract extension, although he's missed the past four games with an injury and his status is unknown for Saturday's matchup. Also joining the forward corps are rookies Jared McCann (eight points in 18 games) and Jake Virtanen (four points in 16 games), while Bo Horvat continues to make strides in his second NHL season. On the blue line, Ben Hutton has made a positive impression early in his rookie campaign, compiling eight helpers while averaging 17:43 per game, but his status is day-to-day after sustaining a lower-body injury on Wednesday in Winnipeg.


One aspect of the Blackhawks' game that might be able to carry the team through their road struggles is the power play, which has scored six times on 26 opportunities in the first nine road games, including one in each of the last three road tilts. Chicago's lone goal on Friday came with the man advantage, as Artem Anisimov tallied his eighth of the season to extend his point streak to four games (2G, 3A). Their 20.3 percent clip overall is an uptick from last season's success rate, and against a Vancouver side that's slid into the bottom half of the league in penalty kill percentage, the Blackhawks might just have the edge in that special teams matchup on Saturday.


Ryan Miller hasn't recorded a win in six starts dating back to Nov. 4, representing a drastic drop after a fantastic start to the season. The 35-year-old has posted a save percentage north of .900 just once over that span, and he's been especially vulnerable on the penalty kill, where he's allowed at least one goal in each of those six starts. While MIller has played well in his career against Chicago (.929 in six appearances), a couple of early goals could serve to rattle the veteran netminder who's been shaky lately. Chicago will turn to starter Corey Crawford, who got the night off in Calgary. Crawford has a career .926 SV% to go along with a 6-3-3 record in 12 starts against Vancouver.

The Chicago-Vancouver rivalry hasn't had the same fire in recent years, although tilts between the two clubs always have the chance to get a little chippy. The Blackhawks don't want to let that happen on Saturday, as they focus on regaining their momentum on the road after two subpar performances against the bottom of the Pacific Division. Two points and a solid effort against the Canucks would go a long way to restoring confidence among Quenneville's men, and they'll need a better transition game and renewed focus on team defense to contend with Vancouver's dependable Sedin machine as well as a cadre of young forwards trying to leave their mark.

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