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Blackhawks begin West Coast swing against Canucks

Chicago was 0-3 against Vancouver last season.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks Dom Gagne-USA TODAY Sports

After a much needed two days off, the Blackhawks drop the puck on their Western Canadian road trip Wednesday night in Vancouver against the Pacific Division-leading Canucks.

Saturday and Sunday weren’t very good to the Blackhawks, after dropping one on the road to St. Louis, 7-3, and losing 2-1 in overtime to Edmonton at home Sunday. The Blackhawks collected only one point during the weekend, and now sit one point behind the Predators and Avalanche in the Central Division standings.

Corey Crawford, who’s looking to bounce back from the tough start Saturday, will start in net Wednesday. Currently sporting a .919 save percentage with a 3-2 record, Crawford has looked solid through his first five starts this season. With a 2.44 goals-against average, things are trending up for Crawford as he continues to come back from a concussion.

Blackhawks fans know all too well the history with the Canucks, and the nasty playoff series that created a hatred that has fizzled out, but hasn’t completely gone away. With some blockbuster names like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa gone from the lineup, it’s time for a new rivalry to grow. Only this time, it’ll be based on finesse instead of punches.

Brock Boeser was one of the many talented rookies to come out of the 2017-18 season, posting a strong 29 goals and 55 points in an injury-shortened season. This season, he has a sidekick in young stud Elias Pettersson, who already has 10 points through seven games.

The rebuild has been a long and painful one for the Vancouver faithful, but this year might be a step in the right direction. Playing in a weakened Pacific Division, the Canucks have a chance to make the points count early and often against non-contending teams. The motivation is there, and is sure to be there against the Blackhawks.

Bo Horvat leads the Canucks with 10 points, and plays 19:14 a night on average. While Horvat is an important piece of this team, he is currently a minus-6, which ranks 24th out of 26th. That is due in part to the goals against average of the team as a whole: a rough 42, with the league average at 33.

The Canucks use Horvat in every situation — five-on-five, power play, and penalty kill — so he will see those negative plus/minus statistics on his score sheet often. Despite the numbers, he’s an impact player, and comes to compete each and every night.

The Canucks also lead the league in penalty minutes with 61, tied with the Avalanche. The Blackhawks come in at 18th, with 42 minutes. Getting on players such as Erik Gudbranson and Antoine Roussel, who lead the Canucks with 27 and 26 penalty minutes respectively, can lead to important power play opportunities for the Blackhawks.

While on the topic of the power play, coach Joel Quenneville shuffled the groups a bit during the team’s practice Tuesday. About halfway through, the power play units went and worked on their own until the end of practice. Here are the updated units:

With a three-two format on the top unit, and loading up on the second unit with a four-one format, the Blackhawks have some flexibility to create chances. Luke Johnson was added to the rotation, as well as Dominik Kahun.

With putting two defensemen on the blue line in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks can try and limit pucks from clearing the zone at the blue line. The first power play unit is essentially the second line and second defensive pairing when playing five-on-five, and hopefully the chemistry between Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane can get things going there.

The Blackhawks went 0-3 against the Canucks last season with only six goals. Some hope remains, however, with Schmaltz scoring one goal in each game against the Canucks. Can the youngster find some magic and grab the Blackhawks two points on the road? “We’ll see,” as Quenneville often says.

As for lineups, Marcus Kruger and Andreas Martinsen were on the outside looking in during line rushes at practice, and Quenneville didn’t confirm they were in or out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game.



DeBrincat — Toews — Kahun

Saad — Anisimov — Kane

Fortin — Johnson — Schmaltz

Kunitz — Kampf — Hayden

Keith — Jokiharju

Gustafsson — Seabrook

Manning — Davidson




Goldobin — Pettersson — Boeser

Schaller — Horvat — Granlund

Roussel — Sutter — Eriksson

Motte — Guadette — Virtanen

Hutton — Gudbranson

Pouliot — Stecher

Del Zotto — Biega



How to watch

Start Time: 9 p.m. Central

Location: Rogers Arena, Vancouver