BLACKHAWKS (14-5-2) at CANUCKS (12-10-0)
Chicago 7-2-1; Vancouver 6-4-0
Second of four meetings this season. Vancouver rallied for a pair of third-period goals in Chicago on Oct. 21 for a 3-2 victory. Michael Grabner scored on the power play with 7:44 remaining and Mikael Samuelsson
notched the game-winner with 4:42 left. It was a small measure of revenge for the Canucks after they got knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring by the Blackhawks.
Big Story: Daniel Sedin
, who broke a bone in his foot in an Oct. 7 game against Montreal, hopes to return for the Canucks. He practiced fully on Thursday. Life is getting back to normal in Vancouver, as Roberto Luongo
has reclaimed his rightful place between the pipes after a brief absence due to a rib injury. Luongo has won two of his three starts since returning, giving up just two goals in each, and stopping 80 of 86 shots for a .930 save percentage.
Blackhawks: Marian Hossa
may be only days away from making his long-awaited debut in a Chicago jersey, but at the moment the Blackhawks are doing just fine without him. They've surged back into the Central Division lead on the strength of a six-game winning streak, which includes victories in the first two games of their annual "Circus Trip," a six-game marathon while the circus visits the United Center. And the Hawks didn't just beat Calgary and Edmonton, they routed them by a combined 12-3 score.
"We needed to be a better road team and we're off to a good start with that on this trip," captain Jonathan Toews
said. "That first game in Calgary was a big one and we continued to play well tonight. We're on a roll right now. We're not thinking about our six-game streak though, we're just trying to take it one game at a time."
This is just Vancouver's third game in a stretch of nine days. The Canucks took a pair from Northwest Division-leading Colorado, smoking the Avalanche 8-2 at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 14 and completing the home-and-home sweep at G.M. Place with a 5-2 win on Friday. Christian Ehrhoff's second of the night sparked a four-goal third as Vancouver rallied for the victory.
"We had a few days off and came back pretty good," Ehrhoff said. "In the first period we didn't kill those first two power plays against and we were down, but we came back strong and kept working hard and we dominated in the third and won the game."
The Hawks' offense has numerous players who are smoking -- Patrick Kane
has goals in five straight -- but Cristobal Huet
is playing his best hockey in recent memory in net. Huet has won six in a row, giving up two goals or less in five of those games and posting a .929 save percentage.
scored four goals for the Canucks in the two games against the Avalanche, including a hat trick in Colorado. Steve Bernier struck for three goals, Mason Raymond
contributed four assists and Samuelsson registered a goal and three assists.
Hossa has been participating in light contact drills as he nears his return from offseason shoulder surgery. Dave Bolland
is on injured reserve for the Blackhawks after undergoing back surgery earlier this month.
Once Daniel Sedin
returns for Vancouver, the next player to focus on will be Pavol Demitra, who was to skate on his own Friday as he continues to rehab from multiple shoulder surgeries.
Ehrhoff rang a shot off the post late in Friday's game in his bid for the hat trick. The last three-goal game by a Canucks defenseman came on Nov. 22, 1991, with Dave Babych doing the honors.
Toews missed nearly three weeks with a concussion suffered on a mammoth hit by Vancouver's Willie Mitchell the last time these teams met. He had his best game since returning against Edmonton, scoring two goals and adding an assist.
"The last five games, I have felt really good," Toews said. "I'm not thinking about it one bit."