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Canucks-Blackhawks Preview

NHL.com @NHL

A promising start to the Chicago Blackhawks' season might be taking a turn for the worse.

After winning four of six to post their best start since the 1990-91 season, the Blackhawks are hoping to avoid a third straight loss and will be missing some key players due to injury as they host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

Offseason acquisition Martin Havlat, who leads Chicago (4-4-0) with seven goals, sprained his right ankle in Friday's 5-4 loss to Dallas and is out two to three weeks. Forward Michal Handzus suffered a torn ACL and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin broke his right index finger in Saturday's 4-3 loss to St. Louis.

Handzus is out for the season and Khabibulin is expected to miss two weeks.

While Handzus has eight points in his first season with Chicago, Havlat also had been off to a strong start with a team-high 13 points. Havlat, among the NHL scoring leaders, has scored in all but two of the Blackhawks' eight games this season.

"Obviously he's a world-class player and it's not going to be easy to replace him," Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "The fortunate thing about a good team is that everyone can contribute."

While Radim Vrbata (11 points) and veteran Bryan Smolinski (eight points) will be asked to pick up the scoring load, Chicago recalled forwards Dave Bolland and Michael Blunden from its Norfolk affiliate on Sunday to provide depth.

Vrbata totaled four points in the losses to Dallas and St. Louis.

Khabibulin had shown signs of improvement recently after a disappointing first season with Chicago in 2005-06, when he was 17-26 with a 3.35 goals-against average. He missed 22 games with groin and knee injuries.

He had won three straight starts, allowing a total of five goals, before giving up all four goals in Saturday's defeat.

Veteran backup Brian Boucher should see more time in net for Chicago. Boucher has lost both of his starts and has a 4.58 GAA this season. His only win in six career starts against the Canucks came on Oct. 5, 2000 while with Philadelphia.

Vancouver (5-4-1) put together back-to-back overtime victories before losing 2-1 at Dallas on Monday.

Daniel Sedin scored his fifth goal of the season for the Canucks, who outshot their opponent for the third straight game, 34-25, but went 0-for-6 on the power play.

"Any time the power play's not going, you're frustrated, and we have a few frustrated guys right now," Canucks assistant coach Mike Kelly told canucks.com. "You have to find your way through it and be better."

Vancouver has been held to four goals in its last 51 power-play chances.

The Canucks, who have played just two home games, will finish off a season-high five-game road trip on Wednesday.

Vancouver has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Chicago, including all four last season.

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