The Vancouver Canucks (24-24-6) are in need of a win in the Windy City as they visit the Chicago Blackhawks (21-24-9) at United Center tonight.
The Canucks have dropped back to back one-goal decisions in Philadelphia and Washington after starting their road trip with a win in Colorado. On Tuesday night, the Canucks fell 3-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champions. Markus Granlund and Elias Pettersson scored the Vancouver goals while Jacob Markstrom stopped 28 of 31 Capitals shots. The big Swede has started five straight and 11 of the last 12 and will get the call again tonight.
The Canucks have not lost three straight since January 3-10 when they went 0-2-1 and have not dropped three in a row in regulation since November 29-December 4. They are 1-2 on this road trip and 1-4 in their last five road games.
The Canucks will use the same 18 skaters they did on Tuesday in Washington. They will move Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin to Elias Pettersson’s line while Bo Horvat centres Markus Granlund and Josh Leivo. The bottom six remains the same.
Horvat has 18 goals on the season, but has just one goal in his past 16 games dating back to December 22nd. He has a team-high 57 shots in that span. Horvat was stopped on a second period penalty shot in Washington on Tuesday. It was the first penalty shot of his five-year NHL career. Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Brandon Sutter, Nikolay Goldobin and Jay Beagle are all regular forwards who each have just one goal since Christmas.
The Canucks went 0 for 2 on the power play in Washington and have gone six games without striking with the man-advantage and are now 2 for their last 28 (7.1%) over the past 11 games. In 15 games since Christmas, the Canucks have scored five power play goals but allowed three short-handed markers.
The Canucks will have their hands full against a resurgent Chicago club that has won five in a row. The Hawks extended their win streak with five-unanswered third period goals in a 6-2 victory in Edmonton on Tuesday night. Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kahun, John Hayden and Erik Gustafsson had the Hawk goals and Cam Ward made 25 saves in goal.
Since a horrific stretch in which the Hawks won just three times in 22 games (3-16-3), the club is 11-5-3 in its last 19 outings. The Blackhawks have picked up at least a point in seven of their last nine games (5-2-2). Chicago fired Joel Quenneville on November 6th and replaced him with Jeremy Colliton who is 15-18-6 behind the bench.
No one in the league is hotter than Patrick Kane who is second overall in goals (32) and tied for second with Connor McDavid in league scoring with 78 points, but leads the NHL in scoring since Christmas with 15+19=34. No other player in the league has more than 26 points in that time. Kane enters the night on a 12-game point streak and has 10+18=28 during that span.
The first overall pick in the 2007 draft leads his team with 32 goals while Alex Debrincat has 26 and Jonathan Toews has 23. That gives the Blackhawks three of the top 30 goal scorers in the NHL this season.
A huge part of the Hawks turnaround has been the power play. Since January 3rd, Chicago is 16 for 37 with the man-advantage operating at a staggering 43.2% in its last 12 games.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson is a big part of the Hawks offense these days. He has three goals in his past two games and has 6+16=22 in his last 22 games. His 11 goals on the season are fourth among NHL defensemen, his 22 points since December 9th are also fourth among blueliners and his 12 power play points in that time lead all d-men in the league.
The Hawks revealed this morning that forward David Kampf will miss three to four weeks with a broken bone in his foot.
Collin Delia gets the start in goal for Chicago. He has won his past two starts.
The Canucks took the first game of this three-game season series with a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks in Vancouver on October 31st. Jake Virtanen scored twice that night with Antoine Roussel and Brendan Gaunce adding singles. Patrick Kane was a late scratch with the flu.
The Canucks will return to United Center on March 18th.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE BLACKHAWKS LINE-UP