The Canucks (33-10-9) host their arch nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks (27-20-4) at Rogers Arena tonight. It’s the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this year, with season series sitting at an even 1-1-1.
These two teams look much different than the ones that met during last years playoffs; the Blackhawks, after an offseason fire sale, lack their former size and depth up front, while the Canucks are deeper and more skilled than ever. Vancouver currently sits 17 points up on the Chicago in the Western Conference.
The discrepancy in the standings didn’t stop the Blackhawks from beating the Canucks 7-1 in their last meeting at Rogers Arena on November 20th. It was a game that sat heavy in the minds of Canucks players and coaches alike, forcing them to reassess their play and ultimately fueling the fire that has seen the team go on a 23-4-6 run since.
“The first couple of weeks of the season we were winning a game, losing a game, winning two, losing two,” said Henrik Sedin. “Sometimes it takes a loss like that to make you realize you aren’t playing the way you want to and we did”.
Chicago has dominated Vancouver at Rogers Arena recently, winning four in a row dating back to last year’s playoffs, outscoring the Canucks 24-5 in the process.
But the players know that last year’s playoff exit to the Blackhawks has made the team stronger.
“We all learn from the past and from our failures and we’ve added a lot of good guys to the locker room this year, like Manny, that bring a lot of leadership to the group,” said Roberto Luongo.
Luongo gets the call in net tonight, having not lost a regulation game in almost two months. He will face off against former Dallas Stars foe, and current Blackhawks backup Marty Turco. In 29 career meetings with Vancouver, Turco is 19-8-2 with a 1.92 GAA and two shut-outs.
“There is always motivation and a little extra excitement to play these guys,” said Luongo. “This is a regular season game but we want to be the one that goes further in the playoffs”.
Aaron Rome will replace Lee Sweatt in the lineup tonight, slotting in on Christian Ehrhoff’s right side after missing eight games with a knee injury. The forward lines will remain the same.
After tonight, the Canucks will have the weekend off before hosting the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
SALO PLAYS TONIGHT
Sami Salo suits up with the Manitoba Moose tonight for his first game of the season against the Wilkes Barrie/Scranton Penguins.
"I'm really excited, for sure," Salo told the Free Press. "I've been skating for the past month-and-a-half and doing small, successful steps getting toward playing games."
After tonight Salo will sit out tomorrow’s back-to-back game against The Hershey Bears, but play on February 6th and 8th. The Conditioning assignment is a three game, or six day stint which could see him eligible for a return with the big club Saturday February 12th against the Flames.
A return date is purely speculation at this point though; Salo’s time frame will depend on how his achilles responds during these games with the Moose.
"It's been a long time since I played and it's been a very slow process with the recovery so I think it's a smart thing to do, to start over here and see how it feels, then we'll go from there," Salo told the Winnipeg Free Press.
In 2009.10 the 6’3”, 212 lbs. defenseman registered 28 points (9-19-28) in 68 games played. He also collected six points (1-5-6) in 12 playoff games.
In 470 NHL games with the Canucks, the Turku, Finland, native has collected 204 points (62-142-204) and 178 penalty minutes. Salo ranks 33rd all-time in team scoring and is the seventh highest scoring Canucks defenseman. His 40 career power play goals rank first overall amongst Canucks defensemen and his +74 with Vancouver ranks second all-time amongst Canucks blue-liners.
CANUCKS FANS AT THE ALL-STAR GAME
Looks like a few die hard Canucks fans took the trip down to Raleigh, North Carolina, last week to support Daniel, Henrik and Ryan Kesler in the all-star game.
Turns out Canucks these Canucks fans were pretty generous too, as they met a local woman whose sister went to the 2010 Olympics but didn’t bring her back anything. She was admiring Deb’s mittens, so Deb gave them to her. Obviously, based on her expression, she was thrilled to get them.