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Canucks-Blackhawks Preview @NHLdotcom

The Blackhawks seemingly had a stronghold on the fourth seed in the Western Conference five weeks ago, but an impressive surge by Vancouver has the Canucks on Chicago's heels.

The Blackhawks aren't the only team the Canucks are trying to catch.

In a possible first-round playoff matchup, the Blackhawks look to pad their lead for the fourth seed Sunday, while visiting Vancouver tries to tie them and move closer to first place in the Northwest Division.

On Feb. 21, Chicago (40-22-11) had an eight-point lead over the Canucks (40-25-9) for fourth in the West. The Blackhawks, though, went 3-7-3 in their next 13 as Vancouver pulled ahead of them last week.

Chicago has won three in a row - all at home - following a season-high five-game losing streak to reclaim fourth, but the Canucks are just two points back.

Finishing fourth and earning home-ice advantage would provide a significant boost to both teams as they've been struggling on the road. Chicago has dropped four straight away from the United Center, while the Canucks have lost five of seven on the road.

Although these clubs could meet in the first round, the Canucks can also catch first-place Calgary in the Northwest and clinch the third seed.

Vancouver defeated Chicago 7-3 at GM Place on Feb. 7 after losing by two goals in each of the first two meetings. Chicago has not won a season series over the Canucks since 2001-02.

The Blackhawks are coming off Friday's 3-2 win over New Jersey, as Brent Seabrook's shot from the blue line at 3:36 of overtime beat Martin Brodeur. Chicago has 13 goals during its winning streak after scoring 14 times during its skid.

"It was huge," Seabrook said. "We needed these points. Vancouver is looking at it the same way."

The Canucks defeated Colorado 4-1 on Friday, making sure not to take the conference-worst Avalanche lightly following Thursday's disappointing 4-2 loss in St. Louis.

"Not right now," said Henrik Sedin, who had a goal and an assist to help Vancouver improve to 10-3-1 in its last 14. "Maybe if the game would have been in December, but we knew we needed these points."

Sedin has four goals and four assists in his last five games. He has two goals and an assist versus Chicago this season.

Roberto Luongo was given the night off Friday after going 13-4-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average in starting the previous 18 for the Canucks. In two games versus the Blackhawks this season, Luongo is 1-1-0 with a 3.55 GAA.

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 28 shots Friday to win his third straight game in his fourth consecutive start for the Blackhawks. He has had no luck against the Canucks, though, going 0-8-1 with one tie and a 3.35 GAA since defeating them Jan. 26, 1998, while with Phoenix.

Cristobal Huet has started all three games against Vancouver this season, but he's just 2-4-1 with a 3.50 GAA since Feb. 22.

Blackhawks right wing Martin Havlat had a goal and two assists Friday to give him 68 points, tying his career high set with Ottawa in 2003-04. He has a four-game goal streak, with five goals and four assists in that span.

"He has had a remarkable year overall," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He has a tremendous touch and feel on the ice."

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