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Canucks-Blackhawks Preview

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Canucks-Blackhawks Preview

GAME: Vancouver Canucks (21-14-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (13-22-4).

TIME: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

The slumping Vancouver Canucks look to get back to their winning ways as they play the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Canucks have lost three straight games and eight of their last nine overall following Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Alex Auld made 34 saves for Vancouver, which is 1-5-3 its last nine games and has scored only five goals during its losing streak.

"I thought the effort was there until the time they tied it up," Canucks captain and center Markus Naslund said. "It's difficult to take something positive out of anything right now the way we're struggling."

The Canucks have been outscored 38-28 over their last nine games, with six of the eight defeats coming by one goal. They were 8-6 in one-goal games prior to a 5-4 overtime loss Dec. 17 to the Edmonton Oilers.

Auld, who has been starting in place of injured starter Dan Cloutier, is 8-7-2 since taking over the No. 1 spot. Cloutier is expected to be sidelined until late February with a knee injury.

Naslund has totaled 14 goals and 26 points in 35 games against the Blackhawks, scoring goals in both games this season.

The Blackhawks are struggling worse than the Canucks, losing a season-high eight straight games (0-6-2) and 10 of their last 11 overall. It is the longest winless streak for Chicago since a 14-game winless streak that included two ties and three overtime losses from Nov. 9-Dec. 7, 2003.

Chicago is coming off a 5-0 loss Tuesday to the Edmonton Oilers. Craig Anderson made 24 saves for the Blackhawks, who were shut out for the first time this season and have scored just 14 goals during their losing streak.

"It's obviously a real stressful situation," Blackhawks defenseman Todd Simpson said. "We're finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. It's a terrible feeling and we can't accept this."

Anderson has lost three straight games with a 3.71 goals-against average and an .845 save percentage since Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a groin injury Dec. 28. The 24-year-old has lost his last five starts and has not won since Nov. 19.

Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney may let 23-year-old rookie Adam Munro make his NHL debut against Vancouver. Munro was 8-6-1 with 2.90 GAA and .894 save percentage in Norfolk of the AHL prior to being recalled.

Chicago's leading goal-scorer Mark Bell has been held to one goal in his last seven games, but does have seven goals and 10 assists in 15 lifetime games against Vancouver.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 4): Canucks - 47 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Northwest Division. Blackhawks - 30 points, 3rd place, 25 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 21 goals and 45 points; Todd Bertuzzi, 26 assists and 70 PIM; Bertuzzi, 70 PIM. Blackhawks - Bell, 15 goals; Tyler Arnason, 20 assists and 30 points; Simpson, 102 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 4): Canucks - Power play: 18.7 percent (50 for 267), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82 percent (201 for 245), 17th. Blackhawks - Power play: 13.4 percent (30 for 224), 29th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (251 for 297), 9th.

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Auld (13-10-3, 0 SO, 2.92 GAA); Maxime Ouellet (0-1-1, 0, 4.39). Blackhawks - Anderson (2-5-1, 0, 3.85); Munro (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 22; Canucks, 3-1. At Vancouver, B.C., Auld made 32 saves as Naslund, Ryan Kesler, and Henrik Sedin scored.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 7-11-2 on the road; Blackhawks - 7-8-1 at home.


Associated Press
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