Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gameday - Chicago At Vancouver

The Chicago Blackhawks are in town to face the Vancouver Canucks in their first meeting of the season. The Blackhawks have not won in Vancouver in more than four years and are coming into the contest with three losses in their last four games. It wasn't long ago that Chicago used to own Vancouver's number, but times have changed...

Vancouver (4-1-1)

Vancouver has won back-to-back games, coming out of the gates strong in both contests. After a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, Vancouver has stepped up their work ethic and the result has been apparent on the score sheets. The Canucks combined to outshoot the Wild and Stars 76-33, while outscoring them 10-5.

Vancouver finally got their power-play going against Dallas, however they still rank 15th in the league at 15.5%. While the power-play is improving the penalty kill is still struggling. Vancouver is ranked 29th in the NHL at 72.4%, only Calgary is worse at 68.1%. Fortunately for Vancouver they are the 2nd least penalized team, being shorthanded only 29 times.

One area of concern for Vancouver is in the faceoff circle. Vancouver is 2nd last in the league at 44.8%, fortunately Chicago is not much better at 47.6%. Vancouver centres (Sedin 48%, Linden 44.9%, Kesler 44.3%, Morrison 41.3%) need to improve in the faceoff circle.

Expect Dan Cloutier to get the call in goal and the rest of the lineup should remain unchanged from Sunday.

Chicago (2-4-0)

Chicago is at the end of a four game road trip in which they have lost two of three so far. In a strange scheduling quirk, this is Chicago's only game this week so expect them to "leave everything on the ice."

The Blackhawks have struggled on special teams. Their power-play is ranked 20th in the league at 13.6% and they have given up 2 short handed markers, putting their power-play at +4. Meanwhile their penalty kill has not been any better, it ranks 23rd at 80%. To make matters worse, Chicago has been shorthanded 50 times(3rd most in league), 21 more than Vancouver!

Their biggest off-season acquisition, Nikolai Khabibulin, has dissapointed so far. Khabibulin is 2-3 with a 3.40 GAA and .866 Sv%. Fortunately for Khabibulin, the Blackhawks other big acquisition will be returning to the lineup. Adrian Aucoin is making a return visit to Vancouver, Aucoin has been nursing... you guessed it, a sore groin.

Chicago will however be without the injured Eric Daze (what else is new?) and Tuomo Ruutu is questionable with a sore back.

Keys to the Game

  1. Hard Work - If the Canucks are working and skating hard they should be able to dominate the Blackhawks.
  2. Discipline - The Blackhawks cannot afford to take penalties. They must do a better job staying out of the box.
  3. Goaltending - If the Canucks show up the Blackhawks will need Khabibulin to be the difference.

TV: PPV 7:00

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