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Slumping Canucks try to cool off red-hot Hawks

by John Kreiser
CANUCKS (43-21-8) at BLACKHAWKS (41-25-8)


Last 10: Vancouver 3-5-2; Chicago 8-1-1

Season Series: It's the fourth and final meeting between two teams that have become major rivals after meeting in each of the last three postseasons. The Canucks have won two of the first three, including a 6-2 win on Nov. 6 in their first visit to the United Center.

Big Story: While the Hawks have been playing some of their best hockey of the season, the Canucks are staggering to the finish line. They won only three times during a seven-game homestand and began a four-game trip with a 2-0 loss at Minnesota on Monday. Chicago has won four in a row and is just two points out of fourth place in the West.

Team Scope:

Canucks: Vancouver is all but assured of repeating as Northwest Division champion, but the Canucks have dropped five of their last seven and haven't shown a lot of life in many of those games.

"We're always looking for wins," said captain Henrik Sedin, who has a team-leading 70 points but no goals and four assists in his last 11 games. "It's about playing our game and trusting that our system is going to win us games and not individual efforts."

Blackhawks: In contrast to the Canucks, the Hawks are peaking at the right time. They dominated the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday, scoring three times before the game with nine minutes old and adding a pair of power-play goals for a 5-1 win.

"We're going good right now, but we've learned a lot this year so far," said defenseman Duncan Keith, who finished with four assists. "The one thing we've learned is we're not going to take anything for granted. We're playing better, but we know there's still more there that we need to get better at. We're happy about our starts lately and that's been a key in our last three games."

Who's Hot: Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford has won his last four decisions, including a 24-save victory in Columbus. Forward Patrick Sharp has six goals and seven assists in his last nine games,

Injury Report: Vancouver is without forward Andrew Ebbett (broken collarbone) until next month. Defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion) is gone for the season. … The Hawks are still without captain Jonathan Toews, who will miss his 15th straight game with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related. The Hawks are 9-4-1 without him, including 9-1-1 in their last 11 games. Defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) is day-to-day, while Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is out for the season and Sami Lepisto (lower body) is out indefinitely.

Stat Pack: Roberto Luongo, who's expected to play for Vancouver after sitting out two games, is 0-3-0 with a 5.28 goals-against average over his last four starts. … The Canucks have been outscored 26-17 while losing five of their last seven games.

Puck Drop: About the only thing that went wrong for the Hawks in their demolition of the Blue Jackets was that Columbus forward Rick Nash scored in the third period, denying Crawford what would have been the Hawks' first shutout of the season -- Chicago is the only team without at least one shutout.

"It'd be nice once in a while," Crawford said with a laugh when asked about getting a shutout. "Whatever. We're more worried about two points -- but it'd be nice once in a while."

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