The Vancouver Canucks look to salvage a win on their two-game road trip which wraps up tonight in the Windy City when the battle the Chicago Blackhawks.
Momentum can be a fickle thing and the Canucks know that better than anyone. Fresh off a convincing 5-0 win over the Penguins on Saturday, Vancouver seemed poised to follow that up with another big victory in Minnesota on Monday. Instead, they stumbled early and fizzled out in a 5-3 loss against a Wild team that is hot on their trail as far as a playoff spot is concerned. They'll be looking to turn momentum around again tonight when they take on the always-tough Blackhawks.
Compounding matters for the Canucks is the fact their sickbay continues to expand with Nick Bonino joining the list of walking wounded after suffering a lower-body injury in the loss to Minnesota. If he can't go tonight, that means Ronalds Kenins will get back into the lineup. Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler also skipped practice yesterday but both are expected to be fine. Defenceman Adam Clendening, who sat out Monday's game as a healthy scratch, could face his former team for the first time. Vancouver did not announce a starting goaltender but if Ryan Miller does get back in between the pipes, it would be his 600th career NHL game.
Puck drop at 5 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Blackhawks will be a prickly bunch to deal with tonight. Not only are they coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the lowly Coyotes on Monday – their fourth loss in their last six home outings – but they'll also be out to avenge their 4-1 loss to the Canucks from back on November 23. On that night, Corey Crawford and company were burned by the dynamic duo of Jannik Hansen and Bo Horvat, the former recording his first career hat trick while the latter became the first Canuck teenager since Trevor Linden to net three points in a game with three helpers.
Crawford will get his chance to atone for that November loss when he gets back between the pipes tonight for Chicago. He had the night off on Monday when Antti Raanta took the loss against the Coyotes. The Blackhawks, who have had their struggles with goal scoring recently after being shutout in back-to-back games just over a week ago, will look to get a little more offensive output than what they managed against the Canucks last time. For that to happen, several of their top scorers will need to bump goal slumps including Jonathan Toews (no goals in five straight), Patrick Sharp (no goals in six straight) and Duncan Keith (no goals in five straight). Chicago will get a boost with the expected return of Kris Versteeg, who has not played since the Winter Classic when he broke his left hand blocking a shot.
Keys to the Game
The big guy keeps it up. No Canuck has been talked about more over the last several weeks than Zack Kassian but over the last few days the chatter has been mostly positive with the big guy riding a two-game goal streak. He's clearly got the hot stick right now but he needs to keep shooting. He's scored on two straight shots which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
Discipline is key. Seeing how the Canucks have allowed power play goals against in six of their last seven outings (eight goals allowed on 27 times shorthanded), staying out of the penalty box is going to be critical. When you consider the fact their opponent is among the least penalized teams in the league, maintaining discipline becomes even more important.
Hossa stays hot hot hot. Often overshadowed by the likes of Kane, Toews and Sharp, Marian Hossa has been in the spotlight for all the right reasons lately. He's got four goals in his last two outings and will be looking to score in three straight games for the first time in over a year. Chicago is 9-1-1 in games where Hossa finds the net this season.
By the Numbers
Goals against average for the Blackhawks this season, second fewest in the NHL behind only Montreal.
Times Ryan Miller has been pulled from a game this season. He has a 2-1-0 record the next game after and a combined .925 save percentage.
Career games played by Adam Clendening as a member of the Blackhawks, all coming this season.
Straight visits without a regulation loss (3-0-3) at the United Center for the Canucks dating back to October 20, 2010.
Game point streak for Radim Vrbata (2-5-7) entering play tonight.
Previous NHL goalies to appear in 600 career games. Miller will become the 44th and the third active on the list (Luongo, Lundqvist).