Blackhawks-Canucks Preview

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From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)

If the Blackhawks and Canucks enter this series with the same intensity that boiled over in their last regular-season meeting, hockey fans will be in for a treat. It was a back-and-fourth four-game regular-season series between these squads, each winning twice, including a game on the road, with 24 total goals.

"We respect that team," Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien told the Vancouver Sun. "They have a bunch of young guys who play hard and they're a good hockey club. Obviously in having home-ice advantage, our fans can get into it from the start and, I think, it will help us coming off the layoff as opposed to going to Detroit and starting there."

Although goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin backstopped the No. 4-seeded Blackhawks against Calgary in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, he was 0-2-0 with a 4.87 goals-against average in two regular-season appearances against Vancouver, while teammate Cristobal Huet, who didn't play a minute against the Flames in the first round, went 2-0-0 with a 2.58 GAA against the Canucks.

The Canucks outscored Chicago 14-10 in the season series, including 11-3 in the final two meetings. "I think we got a good feeling from going into their building and beating them (4-0 on March 29), but is it going to carry over? Probably not," O'Brien said. "I mean, they'll use it for motivation and we'll use it maybe for a little bit of 'been there, done that, we know we can beat them,' but once the puck drops, that game will be so far in the past no one will even think about it."

The Blackhawks limped into this game with a 1-2-2 record to begin the season, already in turmoil after coach Denis Savard was fired after four games and replaced by Joel Quenneville. The Canucks were winners of three of their first five games.

Trailing 1-0 in the first period, the Blackhawks scored four straight goals -- two power-play scores sandwiched by a pair of even-strength goals. Patrick Sharp scored twice (once on the power play) and added an assist, Patrick Kane added a power-play goals and two assists, and goaltender Cristobal Huet made 28 saves. Chicago went 2-for-5 on the power play after entering the game 2-for-22.

"There's a big picture that's very bright here," Quenneville said after earning his first victory. "The skill level of our kids will get better and better. But as a coach, we're in a short-term business. We want to win hockey games."

Pavol Demitra and Henrik Sedin scored for the Canucks and Roberto Luongo made 22 saves.

Dec. 20: Chicago 3 at Vancouver 1 

As in the previous meeting, the Canucks scored first before Chicago mounted a comeback with three consecutive scores. The victory was the seventh straight for the surging Blackhawks and marked their longest win streak since an eight-game run from Jan. 4-21, 1981.

"We aren't getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we are having fun with this," said Sharp, whose 18th goal proved to be the game-winner. "This is new territory for a lot of the guys in here. The playoffs are our goal but we are learning how to win games right now.

"It's very exciting, guys are bouncing off the walls."

Kane and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, and Huet made 30 saves. Daniel Sedin scored the lone goal for Vancouver, which was without Luongo, sidelined with a groin injury. Backup Curtis Sanford made 31 saves in his absence.

Feb. 7: Chicago 3 at Vancouver 7 

For the third game in this series, the Canucks scored first (53 seconds into the game) and the goals kept coming as they took a 6-0 lead midway through the second period, chasing Huet from the Chicago net after one period.

Defenseman Alexander Edler led the charge with a goal and three assists for a career-best four points. Mats Sundin (1-2) and Ryan Kesler (2-1) added 3 points each, and Luongo made 36 saves. The Canucks' power play converted on four of eight chances.

"Our power play scored it felt like every time we were on the ice at the start of the game," said Sundin, who was playing only his 11th game since signing a free-agent deal on Dec. 18.

Rookie Kris Versteeg paced the Blackhawks with a shorthanded goal and an assist. Nikolai Khabibulin, who replaced Huet, played the final 40 minutes and took the loss.

March 29: Vancouver 4 at Chicago 0  

The Canucks dominated for the second straight game in the series, and Luongo made 26 saves for his seventh shutout, matching his career high. Vancouver opened the scoring yet again, and did so for the third time in the first 3:45 of the first period, continuing a trend of hot starts against the Blackhawks.

Daniel Sedin began the barrage at 3:22, beating Khabibulin. Sedin finished with two goals and an assist.

Burrows added a goal and two assists, Ryan Kesler also scored, and Henrik Sedin had three assists to help the Canucks end Chicago's three-game win streak and move into a fourth-place tie with the Blackhawks in the Western Conference.

Luongo preserved the shutout by stopping Sharp on a penalty shot attempt at 14:09 of the third period.

"We came in as possible match-up in the playoffs and we wanted to show we could win in this building," Daniel Sedin said. "Our defense did a tremendous job."

A skirmish occurred early in the third period, resulting in six 10-minute misconducts. In all, the Blackhawks were penalized 63 minutes and the Canucks 35.


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