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Hawks continue six-game trip in Vancouver

by David Kalan

BLACKHAWKS (6-0-1) at CANUCKS (3-2-2)

TV: TSN, RDS2, CSN-Chicago+

Season series: This is the first of three meetings this season between the teams, who split their four games in 2011-12.

Big story: Chicago will try to bounce back from its first loss of the season as it continues its six-game road trip, but the real story lies on the opposite bench, where presumed backup and trade bait Roberto Luongo is making the Canucks' goaltending situation far more complex than had been expected before the season.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: With Disney on Ice calling the United Center home for another 10 days, the Blackhawks are in the early stages of a six-game trip -- one that got off to a disappointing start on Wednesday night. After allowing an early goal by Minnesota's Matt Cullen, Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored to chase Wild starter Josh Harding just 6:45 into the game. But Cal Clutterbuck's goal early in the second period eventually forced overtime, and after a scoreless five minutes, Chicago suffered its first defeat of the season in a shootout -- the Hawks' fifth straight one-goal decision.

"I thought we got better as the game went on," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose team allowed just 10 shots on goal in the final 45 minutes. "I think in the first period we might've been fortunate to get ahead, but at the same time the second part of the game we were in there a lot more and we didn't give up much. You go to a shootout, anything can happen."

Canucks: When Vancouver broke training camp, Cory Schneider's place between the pipes and Luongo's place on a flight out of town if the right deal came along were considered to be more or less givens. The situation is far murkier seven games into the season. Though Schneider has bounced back with three solid efforts after an opening-night blowup, Luongo has been good in each of his three starts -- including a 24-save performance in Wednesday's 3-0 home victory against Colorado. He's 1-0-2 with a 1.61 goals-against average, and coach Alain Vigneault has opted to ride the hot goaltender by giving Luongo his third straight start -- something that he couldn't have imagined a week or two ago.

"I don't think any of us could have, right?" Luongo said after Thursday's practice when asked about his status. "That's the reality of it, but I am in a happy place right now and playing well, the team is playing well and winning and I just want to keep it going."

Who's hot: Many Blackhawks are fueling the Chicago offense, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone contributing more than Toews, who has three goals and an assist in his last four games. ... Luongo isn't the only Canuck experiencing some surprising success this season. Right wing Zack Kassian has scored five times in his last six games and is in a six-way tie for second among goal-scorers.

Injury report: Michal Rozsival (lower body) is questionable for Chicago; he sat out the game in Minnesota. Forward Daniel Carcillo hasn't played after going down with a knee injury on opening day. ... The Canucks are still without forward David Booth (strained groin) for another 2-4 weeks, while center Ryan Kesler (shoulder and wrist surgery) remains on IR.

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