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Blackhawks continue 'Circus Trip' vs. Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

BLACKHAWKS (11-7-2) at CANUCKS (7-7-6)

TV: CBC, SN, TVA Sports, WGN

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata will be a game-time decision when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

Vrbata missed the final game of a seven-game road trip Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets with a groin injury. The Canucks went 1-4-2 on the trip.

Vrbata took part in an optional morning skate Saturday. He has three goals in 19 games after leading Vancouver with 31 last season, but is second on the team with 74 shots.

"He's an important part of our lineup," coach Willie Desjardins said of Vrbata. "He gives us another line that all of a sudden becomes an offensive line that the other team has to watch and he's a really good power play guy too, so we need him, he certainly rounds out our team."

Rookie defensemen Ben Hutton won't play after blocking a shot late against the Jets, and center Brandon Sutter will miss a fifth straight game with an undisclosed lower body injury.

The Canucks are 0-3-1 since Sutter was hurt, including blowing a 3-0 lead against the Montreal Canadiens, on the road trip, but hope the return of Prust, who missed 11 games with a sprained ankle, can help settle a lineup with three forwards 20 or younger playing key roles.

"It's important when you have young kids that the vets have to help them out," Prust said. "You are teaching them all the time. Just stay positive with them and make sure we are on the same page in different types of scenarios. They are going from being the old guy in junior and the guys playing a ton of minutes and being the leader on a team to being the new guy in a new environment and you're in a game with a lot of men. You've got to learn quickly."

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames on Friday, the second game of a six-game road trip that concludes with three games in California next week.

"I don't think it's a measuring stick but we know we are playing against a good team and it's challenge for us to come out and show we can play well," Desjardins said.

The Blackhawks, who are 3-0-1 in their past four games, did not skate on Saturday. Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to start after Scott Darling started in Calgary.

Here are the projected lineups:


Marko Dano - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Desjardins

Brandon Mashinter - Tanner Kero - Ryan Garbutt

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Trevor van Riemsdyk - Brent Seabrook

Trevor Daley - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Teuvo Teravainen (upper body)

Scratched: David Rundblad, Viktor Tikhonov


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Alexandre Burrows - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen

Sven Baertschi - Jared McCann - Chris Higgins

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Luca Sbisa - Matt Bartkowski

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: None

Injured: Radim Vrbata (groin), Brandon Sutter (lower body), Ben Hutton (undisclosed)

Status report: If Vrbata can play, he will either move onto the right side of the second line centered by Horvat or a third line with McCann, with Higgins moving from right to left wing and Baertschi the most likely candidate to come out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. … The Canucks recalled defenseman Taylor Fedun from Utica of the American Hockey League. … Teravainen, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, is expected to miss a couple of games. ... Dano is back in the lineup after he was scratched Friday because of an illness.

Who's hot: Kane extended his point streak to 15 games against the Flames, a new career high. Kane has 10 goals and 15 assists during his streak, and leads the NHL with 14 goals and 31 points. In 28 games against the Canucks, Kane leads active Blackhawks with 10 goals and is tied with Hossa with 14 assists.

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