BLACKHAWKS (29-15-6) at CANUCKS (30-15-4)
TV: TSN, WGN
Chicago 5-3-2; Vancouver 6-2-2
This will be the third of four meetings between the Western Conference rivals, with a split of the first two games – each won in blowout fashion on the other’s home ice. The Canucks scored five times on the power play in a 6-2 thrashing of Chicago on Nov. 6 at the United Center, and the Hawks returned the favor with a 5-1 stomping of Vancouver on Nov. 16 at Rogers Arena – scoring a pair of power-play goals to boot.
The biggest storyline will revolve around Chicago, which will have injured star Jonathan Toews
back on the ice and perhaps Patrick Sharp
as well. Both have been out with what’s believed to be hand/wrist injuries. As for the game itself, there’s been a lot of talk recently about the Stanley Cup-fueled feud between the Canucks and Boston Bruins being the best rivalry in the League currently. However, the Blackhawks probably beg to differ. After a war of words between Chicago’s Dave Bolland
– AKA the bane of the Sedin twins’ existence – and Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, the Hawks put an end to Bolland’s verbal jabs. Don’t think for a second, however, that it extends to the ice, where Bolland will likely revert to his pestilent best and the Hawks will follow in kind.
The way they played against Nashville in their previous game, the Hawks probably need Toews and/or Sharp back in uniform. Chicago did pick up veteran center Brendan Morrison
from Calgary in a trade that should add to the Hawks’ center depth, but it remains to be seen how much the 36-year old has left in the tank. He joins a team that dropped two straight to Central Division rival Nashville heading into the break, which dropped Chicago to sixth in the West. Prior to that, the Hawks had either held the top spot or flirted with it for most of the season. This game also begins Chicago’s most trying stretch of the schedule, with nine straight road games. The Blackhawks divide them up into three separate three-game segments, with practices at home, but that’s still a long time to play away from home.
“Nine straight road games, I’ve never had to deal with that before,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve broken it up into three different segments, so it’ll be a focus on each little trip that we’re trying to get some points in some tough buildings. [We’ve also] got some tough home games when we return. It’ll be a real challenging month.”
Vancouver went into the break on the right note with a 3-2 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers, which has the Canucks sitting second in the West with 64 points – three behind the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks actually have the same amount of points (64), but they’re four places behind Vancouver due to their Northwest Division-lead. That’s just how vice-tight things are among the West’s top eight – another reason this game is huge for both the Hawks and Canucks, who have injury concerns of their own with Aaron Volpatti
and Andrew Ebbett
questionable. The one area that’s no longer a concern is in goal, where starter Roberto Luongo
has fully shaken off his early-season struggles. He’ll watch Tuesday, though, as Cory Schneider
gets the nod.
"It's an exciting start for me and hopefully I can be better than I was last time against this team," Schnieder, who also started the Nov. 16 loss, told the Vancouver Sun.
Who's hot: Marian Hossa
has recorded at least a point in nine straight games (3 goals and 8 assists) for the Blackhawks. … Cody Hodgson
has scored 5 goals and tallied 4 assists in his past 10 games and scored the deciding goal of the shootout that beat Edmonton in the Canucks’ final game before the All Star break.
Injury report: Daniel Carcillo
(knee) is out for the season, while Sharp (upper body) remains questionable for the Blackhawks. … Volpatti (shoulder) has missed 24 games and Ebbett (upper body) has been out for seven straight for the Canucks.
Chicago’s power play on the road is clicking at 23.1 percent (15 for 65), while Vancouver’s man-advantage units at home are scoring at a rate of 24.5 percent (26 of 106) – which is second best in the League, and a big reason the Canucks are tops in the NHL overall on the power play (23 percent).
On Jan. 12 at St. Louis, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin
scored his 100th power-play goal in the NHL – which he potted in overtime to give him nine OT goals for his career. He’s currently tied in that category in Canucks history with Morrison – who will make his Blackhawks debut against his former team.