Gameday preview: Canucks vs Blackhawks (January 31)

Oct 21, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (6) scores against Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (6) scores against Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming up on the final stretch of a four-game road trip, the Vancouver Canucks (19-19-6) will look for a bounce-back win against the Chicago Blackhawks (16-21-7).

This is the Canucks last and deciding matchup against the Blackhawks. The Canucks opened their series match in the windy city with a 4-1 win in just their fifth game of the 2021-2022 campaign – then  led by head coach Travis Green.

Their latest matchup was taken by the Blackhawks by a score of 1-0 on November 21, giving the Canucks their first shutout loss of the season, which would be followed up by the 1-0 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Since 2008, the Canucks have had the better of the Blackhawks, narrowly winning 32 of 63 matchups faced. On a positive note, the Canucks are 9-3 in their last 12 games against the seventh-placed Central team, in which the average number of goals scored was 5.9.

Bruce Boudreau will coach against the Blackhawks for the first time as Canucks head coach. He played seven games for the team during the 1985-86 season, recording one goal. His lines will look to combat the recent offensive onset of 12 goals in the past two games scored by the Blackhawks. Boudreau’s Canucks will look for more offence after getting shutout in Calgary

Getting the call in net for the first of a doubleheader for the Canucks will be Jaroslav Halak, marking his return to the season and first game of the new year. He previously played in a 2-1 losing effort to the LA Kings in a shootout on December 20, 2021 which ended the Canucks seven-game win streak.

Halak returned to back up Spencer Martin, who was recalled to Abbotsford, in a 5-1 win against the Jets. The netminder has had success against Chicago, sporting a 9-2-3 record in 15 career games with a 2.05 GAA and a .930 SV%.

Goaltender Michael DiPietro has now been moved back to the Taxi Squad causing questions to circulate about a potential Halak move or goalie situation.

Opposite of Halak in net will be Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has a knack for finding ways to win against Vancouver: he is 13-2-2 in 17 career games with a 2.58 GAA and a .914 SV%. He has three losses in his last four starts and was pulled in a 5-1 loss game against the Minnesota Wild on January 21.

The Canucks are still without forward Tanner Pearson in COVID-19 protocol and defenseman Tucker Poolman (upperbody) in the lineup. Noah Juulsen, who was recalled from the Taxi Squad on January 29, will likely slot in again on the left side with partner Brad Hunt.

In other news, forwards J.T. Miller and Alex Chiasson will suit up for the 600th NHL game. Defenceman Tyler Myers will be back tonight after being ejected for a high hit against forward Trevor Lewis during the game against Calgary.

New GM Patrik Allvin will also be in the building for tonight’s game.

Here is how the Canucks will lineup courtesy of Canucks Army.

Here is how the Blackhawks will square up courtesy of Daily Faceoff.

Keys to the Game

The Canucks defensive 5v5 game has been a big upside this season, in part to great goaltending. Vancouver leads the NHL in fewest goals-against at even-strength with 63.

On the other hand, the Canucks haven’t been able to convert on scoring chances and sit in second for the fewest goals scored at even strenght with 65 in 44 games played. This is not good enough – considering the power play doesn’t connect all that frequently at times.

Offence will be the name of the game tonight after a pretty disappointing loss to the Flames, in which Vancouver recorded 15 shots, and Thatcher Demko, once again, was the star of the game.

In terms of comparison, the two draw pretty similarly in most categories. The Canucks need to win faceoffs, generate offensive zone time, and pepper shots at the net and when given the opportunity on the powerplay, they have to get that all-important goal. Special teams might just be the dealbreaker in today’s early start.

Players to Watch

For the Canucks, it’s captain Bo Horvat. Horvat leads Canucks skaters with career points against the Blackhawks with 18 points (nine goals and nine assists) in 19 games. Horvat comes into this game with seven points (six goals and one assist) in his last 10 games. He was also hot in the playoff circle, going 15/23 the last time these two teams faced off.

For the opposition, it’s prolific goal scorer Patrick Kane. Kane has been all over the net in his last two games, recording 12 shots and recording five points (two goals and three assists). He has 41 points (14 goals and 27 assists) in 44 career games against the Canucks.

Next. Abbotsford Canucks check-in: Four game win streak snapped in Manitoba. dark

Puck drop is set for 4:30 PM. You can catch the game on Sportsnet Pacific or listen to it on Sportsnet 650.