Preview: Canucks at Blackhawks
The Vancouver Canucks are battling for the top spot in the Pacific Division, having shrugged off a pair of season-opening losses to earn points in 12 of their last 13 games. The Canucks will wrap up a stretch where they play nine of 12 games away from home when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night in the opener of a two-game road trip.
Vancouver suffered its fifth one-goal decision with a 2-1 home setback to reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis on Tuesday but coach Travis Green liked what he saw from his club. “That was a big-boy game,” Green said. “To win a (Stanley) Cup you have to play in heavy games, and that was the most physical one we’ve been in this season and we handled it very well." The Blackhawks have not been handling things well, dropping seven of their last nine games (2-5-2) after wrapping up a four-game road trip with a 4-2 loss at San Jose. “I just feel like that’s kind of how it’s been going for us all year: It seems like take one step forward, two steps back," star forward Patrick Kane said. "Just not consistent enough.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver), NBCS Chicago
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (9-3-3): After amassing eight power-play goals in a five-game span, Vancouver converted 1 of 13 chances over the past three contests, although an injury to rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes played a factor in two of the contests. "I’m not too worried about the PP," said Hughes, who forced overtime with a late third-period goal Tuesday. "We’re going to have really good days and days. ... It’s just going to keep getting better." Reigning First Star of the Week Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist in three games versus Chicago last season.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (4-7-3): A sputtering offense continues to haunt Chicago as Kane and Alex DeBrincat, who combined for 85 goals last season, are tied with Brandon Saad for the team lead with four while Kane is the only player with double-digit points (13). Captain Jonathan Toews emerged from a funk with a goal and three assists in his last three. “I’ve been able to make some plays, play with the puck a little bit more, get out with some more energy — all those things I’ve been talking about,” said Toews, who had two points in his first 11 games.
1. Kane and Toews have 35 and 31 points, respectively, in 39 games versus Vancouver.
2. Canucks G Jacob Markstrom is 4-0-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average versus the Blackhawks.
3. Chicago is 2-for-29 on the power play over the past nine games.
PREDICTION: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 2