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Hawks blank Canucks for seventh straight

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
A pair of rookies helped make sure the Chicago Blackhawks winning streak reached seven in a row.

Antti Niemi stopped all 30 shots he faced for his second career shutout and Bryan Bickell scored his first NHL goal in three seasons to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 win Sunday night over the Vancouver Canucks at G.M. Place.

''Maybe the most confident (I've felt) in the NHL today,'' Niemi said. ''I don't know why, but I didn't worry about anything else, just make the next save.''

Niemi, who blanked Florida in Helsinki, Finland, during a season-opening trip, made 11 saves in the third as Vancouver made several bids to tie the score and force overtime.

''Spectacular,'' said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who won his 499th game. ''What an effort. What a game. That was a goalie win, hopefully you get five or six over the course of a year and that's one. I thought our 'D' played real well but he was spectacular.''

Chicago has also won the first three of a six-game road trip while the circus takes over the United Center. The Blackhawks have been reliving memories of last season's run to the Western Conference Finals, as they opened the trip with a 7-1 rout of Calgary. The Hawks took six-game series from both the Flames and Canucks in the first two rounds.

Bickell was injured on just his second shift of Saturday's game in Edmonton when he collided with Dustin Penner and hit his head on the ice. But he was right back in the lineup on Sunday and ended up making an impact after Niemi and Roberto Luongo of the Canucks didn't allow anything past them over the first 40 minutes.

''I did a little workout, some balance stuff to see if everything was there and my head wasn't spinning, then I had to take the NHL test and they said I was good to go,'' Bickell said.

Bickell cleaned up a loose puck in the crease 1:12 into the third to break the scoreless stalemate. Patrick Kane skated the puck into the Canucks' zone, backing off the defense, and sent a cross-ice pass to Brian Campbell. He carried in front, only to have the puck roll off his stick. It deflected off the skate of Jonathan Toews before Bickell found it through the scrum in front and deposited it past Luongo, who stopped 16 shots.

Bickell last scored an NHL goal against Dallas on April 8, 2007. He played seven games for the Blackhawks between 2006-08 before spending all of last season with Rockford of the American Hockey League.

''For me it's go get the puck in the corner, feed the skill guys and get to the net,'' Bickell said. ''Our game plan is to get traffic in front of Luongo and it worked. I got the rebound and luckily it was the game-winner.''

Daniel Sedin returned for the Canucks after missing 18 games with a broken foot. He played 18 minutes, 18 seconds and registered three shots on goal. But he didn't have any more luck than his teammates, at least one of whom was visibly frustrated by Niemi's performance.

''They had nothing all night, then get a cheesy one in the third,'' Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler said. ''It hits a couple legs and goes right on (Bickell's) tape for a tap-in from the blue. It's frustrating. I definitely thought we should have won this one tonight. We dominated the game.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.



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