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Blackhawks renew rivalry with Canucks

by Brian Hunter
BLACKHAWKS (35-12-4) at CANUCKS (30-18-2)

Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Vancouver 7-2-1

Season Series:
Third of four meetings this season. Each team has already won once in its opponent's building. Vancouver edged Chicago 3-2 on Oct. 21 as Michael Grabner and Mikael Samuelsson scored 3:02 apart in the third period. The Blackhawks got revenge on Nov. 22, as Bryan Bickell got the only goal and Antti Niemi stopped 30 shots in a 1-0 win over the Canucks.

Big Story: It's all about lengthy road trips for these two teams. Chicago already endured a six-gamer earlier this season, going 4-1-1, and this will be the fifth stop on an eight-gamer that takes the Blackhawks through the end of the month. They have won three of four so far. Meanwhile, Vancouver is enjoying the home cooking while it can -- with the Winter Olympics soon to invade British Columbia, the Canucks will embark on a marathon, 14-game trip that begins Jan. 30 in Toronto and doesn't end until March 10 in Phoenix (broken up in between by the two weeks off for the Olympics, of course).

Team Scope:

This portion of Chicago's road trip must rekindle memories of last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Blackhawks dispatched of both Calgary and Vancouver in six games en route to a berth in the Western Conference Finals. Right now the Flames are a shell of their former selves, and the Hawks took full advantage Thursday with a 3-1 win, Ben Eager scoring the tiebreaking goal early in the third period.

"The first half of the season, we felt we weren't playing as well as we could but our line's been getting some production here the last 10-15 games," said Colin Fraser, who intercepted the puck leading to Eager's goal. "We've played our game, really simplified our game, and try to create energy for our team and we've been able to get some lucky ones."

Canucks: This is the second of a four-game homestand Vancouver enjoys before heading out on the road for the long haul. The Canucks opened it Thursday with a 4-3 win over the Stars, as Christian Ehrhoff scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Kyle Wellwood added what proved to be the game-winner. Ehrhoff stepped up after an injury to Sami Salo and an equipment problem for Brad Lukowich left the team short on the blue line.

"I pretty much double shifted the whole period," said Ehrhoff, who played nine minutes in the third. "It's not nice when guys go down but it's a challenge for the guys still left in the game to step up their game."

Who's Hot:
Patrick Kane, the leading scorer for Chicago, has two goals and three assists in his last four games, as does team captain Jonathan Toews. Duncan Keith has five goals and six assists in his last 10 games. He is second in the League in scoring among defensemen with 46 points, trailing only Mike Green of Washington.

Alexandre Burrows is on a five-game goals streak and has erupted to score 13 in his last nine games for Vancouver. He has taken over the team lead with 23 this season. Henrik Sedin continues to add to his League-leading total with 71 points. He has seven points in his last three games while Daniel Sedin has six.

Injury Report:
The Blackhawks have lost forwards Adam Burish to knee surgery and Dave Bolland to back surgery. … The Canucks have defenseman Kevin Bieksa (ankle) and forwards Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder) and Grabner (ankle) on injured reserve, while defenseman Willie Mitchell (upper body) and forward Rick Rypien (flu-like symptoms) missed Thursday's game and are day-to-day.

Stat Pack:
Kane had six goals for Chicago in the playoff series between these teams, including a hat trick in the decisive Game 6 win. … Vancouver is 20-7-1 at GM Place this season, but has only 13 home games remaining.

Puck Drop:
The Blackhawks begin play Saturday two points behind the Sharks in the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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