Canucks-Blackhawks Preview


The Vancouver Canucks might have a firm grasp on the second seed in the Western Conference, but they are having a hard time building momentum heading into the playoffs.

Looking to bounce back from their latest defeat, the Canucks face another difficult challenge Wednesday night when they visit a Chicago Blackhawks team trying to match a season high with its fifth consecutive victory.

Thanks to a comfortable lead in the Northwest Division, Vancouver (43-21-8) appears locked into the second seed in the West. However, the Canucks have not played like a playoff team during their current 3-5-2 stretch.

"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."

That did not work for the Canucks during Monday's 2-0 loss at Minnesota. Despite putting 33 shots on net, the Canucks lost for the fifth time in seven contests. Vancouver has been outscored 26-17 during that stretch.

"We've got to muster up a way to find a way to win games,'' center Ryan Kesler said. "If we play the way we can and we get better, we shouldn't have a problem winning the majority of our games from here on out.''

A visit to rival Chicago (41-25-8) has the potential to light a fire under the Canucks, who knocked the Blackhawks out of last postseason and have won two of three against them in 2011-12, including a 6-2 victory at the United Center on Nov. 16.

"You've got to be at your best against (Vancouver)," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, whose team eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. "Every game has been a big one against them over the last few years."

Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined for two goals and five assists in Chicago in November. Daniel Sedin scored in overtime of a 3-2 home victory in the teams' last meeting Jan. 31.

Roberto Luongo, who made 38 saves at Chicago in his only appearance against the Blackhawks this season, will be in net Wednesday after sitting out Vancouver's last two games. He is 0-3-0 with a 5.28 goals-against average over his last four starts.

Facing a Blackhawks club that has outscored its opponents 18-7 during a four-game winning streak might not put Luongo in the ideal position to end his personal slump. Chicago has held a 7-0 scoring advantage in the first periods of its last three contests.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Duncan Keith had four assists and Marian Hossa added one of each to reach 900 career points Tuesday as Chicago posted three goals in the first period of a 5-1 rout of Columbus. The sixth-place Blackhawks, 8-1-1 since a three-game skid, are two points behind Nashville and Detroit for fourth and fifth, respectively, in the West.

"We're feeling good right now,'' Keith said. "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 have to get better at. We're happy with our starts the last three games.''

Corey Crawford, who has stopped 79 of 83 shots during Chicago's four-game winning streak, made 24 saves Tuesday. He's 1-1-1 with a 3.27 GAA versus Vancouver this season.

Sharp has six goals and seven assists in his last nine games, but only one goal against the Canucks in 2011-12.