At the risk of sounding overdramatic, the Canucks begin a stretch of games tonight that could very well be the make or break of their season. These next six games not only mark the third extended road trip of the year for the Canucks but it also kicks off a stretch of two months where they're expected to be without veteran blue-liner Dan Hamhuis, who suffered a facial injury in the Canucks' 2-1 win on Wednesday against the Rangers.
The road has not been kind to the Canucks lately – they've won just two of their last 11 away from Rogers Arena – and they couldn't have asked for a tougher test than starting off in Chicago. The Blackhawks are 11-3-1 at the Madhouse on Madison and are riding a three-game home win streak after coming off a 2-0 shutout victory over the Jets on Friday. Look for Yannick Weber to come into the line-up in place of the injured Hamhuis for Vancouver while Ronalds Kenins and Andrey Pedan could also potentially factor in with both having been summoned from Utica (AHL) yesterday. Ryan Miller and Corey Crawford are the expected starters for their respective clubs in goal.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Blackhawks are hardly a one-man show but it certainly seem that way these days since the one player that the entire NHL is talking about is Patrick Kane, the owner of a historic 25-game point streak that is the longest by any player this season, longest by an active NHLer, longest in Blackhawks franchise history, and longest by an American-born NHLer. Kane's streak, which has seen him amass 16 goals and 39 points, has certainly been a major boon especially for his linemates, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Panarin is off to a flying start in his NHL career averaging nearly a point-per-game while Anisimov, a newcomer to the team this season by trade from Columbus, is on his way to a career-season although he's been quiet of late going point-less in four straight outings.
The Kane streak has had an unexpected side effect. It's taken a lot of focus (and perhaps criticism) away from what would normally be thought of as the first line of Toews-Hossa-Teravainen. That trio has combined for 43 points this season or, in other words, two fewer than what Kane has amassed on his own. It would be scary to think how much more dominant the Blackhawks would be if that top line was firing on all cylinders. For now, though, it appears the Blackhawks are content on riding the Kane train, solid netminding from Corey Crawford, as well as the offence they know they can always count on coming from the back end from Duncan Keith. Brent Seabrook, meanwhile, is also having a fine start to his season and is trending towards possibly setting a new career-high in points.
Keys to the Game
Break the streak. While the Canucks can't focus solely on Patrick Kane, there's no doubt trying to put an end to No. 88's point streak is a huge motivation in and of itself. The Canucks came close last time holding Kane off the scoresheet for 52 minutes. They'll want to finish the job tonight.
More Sedinery. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were simply magnificent the last time the Canucks faced the Blackhawks especially in the late stages taking over the game when it was tied in the third period. This will be another night the Canucks could certainly use a big performance from their top stars.
Pressure the thin blue line. The Canucks' defence corps is more banged up than ever with Dan Hamhuis joining Luca Sbisa on the sidelines. Knowing Vancouver has made adjustments to their pairings, they'll want to take advantage of the unfamiliarity among Vancouver's blue-liners.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Regulation loss this season for Chicago against Pacific Division teams (7-1-2). That loss was to Vancouver.
Games this season, out of 30 played, where Chicago's Patrick Kane has failed to record a point.
Straight head-to-head games for Chicago against Vancouver at the United Center without a regulation loss (3-0-2).
Combined points for the Sedins against the Blackhawks back on November 21 (4-5-9).
Goals surrendered on home ice by the Blackhawks this season, fewest in the NHL.
Career regular season games played in by Radim Vrbata after he suits up tonight. Congrats Radim!