The Chicago Blackhawks’ yearly circus road trip is notoriously daunting. It hasn’t phased the Blackhawks so far this time, but a visit to a building in which they traditionally struggle could change that.
The Central Division-leading Blackhawks will try to earn their third straight victory on the trip and extend their overall winning streak to seven games Sunday night when they face the Vancouver Canucks.
Chicago (14-5-2) endures an extended road trip every November, necessitated by the circus’ annual two-week stint at the United Center. Last season, the team split the six-game swing (3-2-1) after accumulating a 6-22-4 record with three ties over the previous six years.
The Blackhawks are already in position to match their win total from last season’s jaunt after beating Edmonton 5-2 on Saturday, two nights after opening this six-game trip with a 7-1 win in Calgary.
“We needed to be a better road team, and we’re off to a good start with that on this trip,” said center Jonathan Toews(notes), who had two goals and one assist Saturday. “That first game in Calgary was a big one and we continued to play well (Saturday). We’re on a roll right now. We’re not thinking about our six-game streak though, we’re just trying to take it one game at a time.”
Chicago entered this trip with considerable momentum after sweeping a four-game homestand. Overall, the team’s six-game streak is its longest since a nine-game run Dec. 7-28 of last year.
The right wing is riding a nine-game point streak and a five-game goal-scoring run - both career bests. He’s accumulated five goals and eight assists over the last nine games, and had one of each against the Oilers.
Kane leads the team with nine goals and 23 points, but has only one goal in four regular-season games at Vancouver (12-10-0). He had six goals - three on the road - and two assists in helping the Blackhawks beat the Canucks in six games during last season’s Western Conference semifinals, including a hat trick at home in Game 6.
Kane was limited to an assist in the first meeting this season - a 3-2 loss at the United Center on Oct. 21.
Chicago is 2-9-2 in its last 13 regular-season visits to GM Place, but took two of three meetings there in last spring’s playoff series.
The Canucks, who are 8-2-0 at home, are seeking their third consecutive win after consecutive victories over Colorado. They opened a five-game homestand with a 5-2 win over the Avalanche on Friday after beating them 8-2 on the road six nights earlier.
Luongo only needed to stop 18 shots in the victory in Chicago last month. He posted a 3.52 GAA while starting all six playoff games.
Niemi is 3-1-1 with a 2.22 GAA and a shutout this season, with the lone defeat in regulation coming against the Canucks. However, he made a career-high 28 saves in that contest.