Game 38: Canucks at Blackhawks (12.20.13)
A date with the best team in hockey is certainly not at the top of the wish list for a struggling team as the Canucks have suddenly become, but then again perhaps facing an elite team in the Blackhawks might give them some motivation to turn in a more complete effort after a pair of subpar performances. Vancouver has had their moments in the last two outings, including a dominating stretch in the second period of yesterday's 4-1 loss to Dallas, but not consistently enough to deserve to come away with victories. Another loss tonight and the Canucks could quickly find themselves sliding back outside the playoff picture after working so feverishly to get themselves in the top eight.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have no worries about dropping out of the top-eight in the Conference anytime soon but they are still in a dogfight with the likes of the Ducks, Blues and Penguins to remain at the top of the Conference and league standings. Chicago comes into this contest as winners of two in a row and five of their last six games. They were 2-1 winners in the first meeting of the season against the Canucks back on November 23 at Rogers Arena. Corey Crawford, who picked up the win that night for the Blackhawks, remains out with lower body so the Canucks will get their first look at Antti Raanta tonight. The Canucks could opt to go with Eddie Lack tonight in net as has been their habit for the most part in the second half of back-to-back games this season.
Puck drop at 5 pm PT - Live on TSN, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Contain Kane. The Canucks will have to find some way to make sure Patrick Kane doesn't run wild on the scoresheet which is easier said than done. Kane brings a team-high 10-game point streak into this outing and has notched a point in 22 of his last 23 outings.
Be focused for 60 minutes. Nine seconds was all it took for the Blackhawks to turn a deficit into an advantage and ultimately a victory back on November 23 at Rogers Arena. 15 seconds was what it took for the Stars last night to build an insurmountable lead. The Canucks have to be prepared to play this game from start to finish and avoid mental lapses as much as possible.
Raanta keeps rolling. The Blackhawks haven't missed a beat despite losing both their regular starting goaltender and their regular back-up thanks to the play of 24-year-old minor league call-up Antti Raanta. He's allowed two-or-fewer goals in seven of eight starts while compiling a 7-1-1 record.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks in games where they give up the first goal (8-8-3).
Times this season Ryan Kesler has failed to record a shot on goal, including last night in Dallas.
Times this season Roberto Luongo has failed to finish a game in which he started.
Straight regular season games without a regulation loss in Chicago for the Canucks (2-0-3) dating back to Oct. 20, 2010.
Straight games with a power play scored for the Blackhawks. They are 14-for-41 during that stretch (34.1 percent).
Times the Blackhawks have scored 5-or-more goals in a game this season. VAN has scored 5-or-more on six occasions.