It's hard to imagine any victory from now until the end of the regular season that will be as monumental for the Canucks as Tuesday's in Nashville. Not only did Vancouver battle back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2, they also had to ward off some questionable calls and a late surge from the Predators to emerge with a 5-4 shootout win. That being said, the Canucks still have important games to play in their final five regular season outings and this contest against Chicago is yet another big one.
A win tonight for Vancouver would not only allow them to sweep the Blackhawks for the first time since 2005.06 but also set up a 'win and you're in' opportunity in the road trip finale on Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg. The Canucks did not skate yesterday so any lineup updates will come on Thursday morning. Alex Burrows, who was handed a game misconduct in Tuesday's win over Nashville, will be available to play tonight as he did not receive any supplemental discipline.
Puck drop at 5:30 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
There was plenty of concern in Chicago back in late February when the Blackhawks lost Patrick Kane for the stretch drive heading into the playoffs after he suffered a broken clavicle. The Blackhawks had managed to win the game in which Kane was injured on February 24 over the Panthers to snap a season-high three-game winless skid but many wondered if that was just a temporary reprieve. Give them full credit for stepping up despite a significant part of their lineup missing. Since Kane went down, the Blackhawks have gone 10-4-1. It's kept them within striking distance of a division title and has allowed them to fend off the hard-charging Wild right behind them to stay in a top-three spot in the division. In Kane's absence, they've had several players step up to fill the offensive void. While some are the usual suspects such as Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, there have also been a few surprises as well. Andrew Shaw has four goals and five points in his last five outings, while Patrick Sharp has recently emerged from his lengthy slump (one assist in 15 games from February 8 to March 12) to post four goals and eight points in his last nine outings.
Chicago's main concern lately hasn't been their 'goals for' but rather their 'goals against' and that starts with the man between the pipes, Corey Crawford. Crawford has allowed 16 combined goals over his last five outings, including three-or-more in four of those contests. His recent struggles have come after a stretch in which he was absolutely lights out going unbeaten in regulation in seven straight (6-0-1) and allowing just eight combined goals. Based on recent history, the Canucks are probably not the team he'd want to face while in need of a confidence booster. He has started both games in the season series to date and has been lit up on both occasions allowing eight goals on 65 combined shots over the two games.
Keys to the Game
Have all four lines going. The biggest reason for the Canucks' success in the season series is because they've gotten offensive contributions from top to bottom of the lineup. Six different forwards have recorded a goal in the season series while 11 different forwards have notched a point led by rookie Bo Horvat with four. It's awfully tough to defend four lines that can cause damage on the scoresheet.
Take control 5-on-5. It's great the Canucks' power play has been red hot lately but they probably shouldn't expect it to get much work tonight. Vancouver has enjoyed just three power plays so far in the season series (Chicago has had eight). The Blackhawks are one of the least penalized teams in the league so the Canucks know this game will have to be won at even-strength.
Squash the momentum. The Blackhawks know their opponent is riding a high after their big win on Tuesday. They're going go to want to prevent Vancouver from continuing that momentum. Taking an early lead and holding it would be one way to do it. The Blackhawks have held a lead for a grand total of just 3:45 in the season series so far.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for CHI against Pacific Division teams (12-5-3). VAN is the only team they have not beaten.
Straight road wins for the Canucks entering play tonight. (Longest since Jan. 10 to Feb. 9, 2012 – 5 straight)
Straight reg. season games without a regulation loss (4-0-3) in Chicago for VAN dating back to Oct. 20, 2010.
Percent success rate on the power play for the Blackhawks in the season series (3-for-8). (Vancouver - 0-for-3)
Percent success rate on the power play for the Canucks over their last seven games (7-for-17).
Goals allowed by the Blackhawks this season, second fewest only to Montreal (171). They're in the hunt for the William M. Jennings Trophy.