The Chicago Blackhawks are enjoying a nice turnaround this season. It remains to be seen if they can also change their fortunes against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Blackhawks, finally showing signs of becoming a contender after years of struggling, look to solve their problems against the Canucks when the teams meet for the first time this season Sunday night.
Chicago (12-8-1) is bunched within a tightly packed Western Conference after finishing with just 71 points in 2006-07. The Blackhawks haven't made the playoffs since 2001-02, when they lost in the first round, and their struggles against Vancouver go back to that season.
Since a five-game winning streak in the series, the Blackhawks are 3-10-4 with one tie versus the Canucks (11-9-2). Chicago ended an eight-game losing streak in Vancouver with a 3-0 win on Feb. 7, but went 1-2-1 in last season's series, failing to score on any of its 20 power-play opportunities.
The Blackhawks have gone 2-for-15 with the man advantage in their last five games - all of which have been on the road - but are 2-1-2 in that span. Chicago, though, fell for the first time in three games Saturday night, losing 3-2 in a shootout with Edmonton.
Chicago was without forwards Patrick Sharp and Tuomo Ruutu, with both experiencing flulike symptoms. Their status for Sunday's game is uncertain.
"We played hard with some guys out and that was good to see," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said.
Chicago has been held to two goals in regulation in two straight games after finding the back of the net a total of nine times in its previous two contests. Defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Duncan Keith had goals for the Blackhawks on Saturday.
Blackhawks star rookie Patrick Kane, meanwhile, has been held off the scoresheet in three straight games. Kane, who has seven goals and a team-best 22 points, had not gone more than two games without registering a point before this slump.
This is the finale of the Blackhawks' six-game stretch on the road, where they are 6-3-2 and have killed off 93.2 percent (41-of-44) of their opponents' power-play chances.
Vancouver is coming off its first loss in regulation in nine games, losing 3-1 to St. Louis on Friday night. The Canucks had won six times and lost twice in shootouts during their previous eight games.
Vancouver, which has converted 19.8 percent of its power-play opportunities, did not score on any of its six chances Friday. Ryan Kesler scored the Canucks' lone goal with an assist from Taylor Pyatt.
Kesler enters with a four-games point streak (two goals, four points). The fourth-year center already has five goals, five short of his career high set in 2005-06.
The Canucks continue to play without two of their top defensemen. Kevin Bieksa (calf) and Mattias Ohlund (suspension) have been out of the lineup, but Sami Salo returned Friday after missing eight games with a broken nose.