These Games Are Always Fun: Canucks - Blackhawks Preview

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GAME TIME: 7:00 PST

TV: CBC

SEASON SERIES: 1-1

LAST MEETING: November 22: Blackhawks 1 Canucks 0

THE ENEMY: Second City Hockey

UPDATE (1:13 PM): Rick Rypien is still feeling effects of food poisoning (I blame Ben Eager) and will not play tonight. H/T to missy for the heads up.

The Hawks will start Auntie Niemi tonight. He's the guy that shut us out last time.

*****************************

This will be the 3rd of 4 meetings between these 2 teams this season. I think the hate for the Hawks from Canucks fans remains strong, as there is just so much beautiful and disgusting history between the 2 teams over the past year. There is still bad blood between the players. All hair-pulling aside, this one is going to be uber-challenging for the Canucks with Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell (and sure, Kevin Bieksa) out of the lineup. How is our depleted defence going to be able to contain the insanely good Chicago team? Well I say "nothing is impossible." Surprise us, Nolan Baumgartner. That is a lot of ice time up for grabs with Salo and Mitchell out. You would think Brad Lukowich steps into the top 4 now. Hey, with AV you never know. Shane O'Brien played over 21:00 against the Stars.

More after the jump...

While the Canucks are in a dogfight trying to take over the Northwest Division lead, Chicago is constantly in a battle for top spot in the West with the Sharks (now trailing by 2 points).

Chicago's record over their last 10 games: 7-2-1

Vancouver's record over their last 10 games: 7-2-1

Chicago's record over their last 20 games: 15-4-1

Vancouver's record over their last 20: 14-4-2

Not too much difference there. I like it.

Let's see who is rolling for the Hawks over their last 5 games:

-Patrick Kane: 2 goals and 3 assists

-Johnny (Chicklets) Toews: 2 goals and 3 assists

-Marian Hossa: 2 goals and 3 assists

-Duncan Keith: 2 goals and 2 assists

-Patrick Sharp: 1 goal and 3 assists

-Troy Brouwer: 2 goals and 2 assists

Sure, that may not compare much to what the Sedins and Burrows are doing right now, however, the Hawks get scoring from plenty of sources, which in a head-to-head scenario spells a massive challenge for the Canucks. Check out their team scoring stats.

The Hawks are rotating goaltending duties about as much as Heidi Montag alters her looks. Chicago has no real problems playing in front of either goalie. Antii Niemi (13-3-1 with a 1.85 GAA and .923 save %) and Cristobal Huet (22-9-3 with a 2.24 GAA and .904 save %) look pretty good. Niemi looks to make Huet disposable this coming summer. And speaking of goalies: Roberto Luongo (26-14-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .919 save %) needs to be a whole helluva lot better. If he doesn't sharpen up, Chicago is going to expose him. Whatever happened to that "lights-out" goaltending, Lou? Luongod has fallen from heaven at this point. Plain and simple..he is not playing good enough. Funny though, his current basic goalie stats are on par with what he's done over the past few years.

In the previous 2 matches against eachother, both teams have not allowed a lot of shots on goal. Chicago outshot the Canucks 20-18 in a 3-2 loss on October 21. they outshot Vancouver 17-16 in a 1-0 a month later. What will we see tonight?

Before I get into the comparative stats, I would like to address the Kovalchuk-to-Chicago rumors, drummed up (speculated more or less) by Bob McKenzie from TSN on Friday. Horse shit I say!  Why would the Hawks give up the players required and disrupt their team chemistry at a time like this? Give up Cam Barker or Duncan Keith? To me, Marian Hossa is the horse they acquired in the summer, and I don't think they are going to get Kovalchuk. Financially, the deal makes no sense for Chi-town either. Sucks being stuck with Brian Campbell's salary, huh?

COMPARATIVE STATS (This should be intriguing)

WINS: Chicago 1st, Canucks 6th

GOALS PER GAME: Chicago 3rd, Canucks 4th

LEAST GOALS AGAINST PER GAME: Chicago 2nd, Canucks 6th

5 ON 5: Chicago 2nd, Canucks 3rd

POWER PLAY: Canucks 4th, Chicago 6th

PENALTY KILL: Chicago 5th, Canucks 14th

SHOTS PER GAME: Chicago 2nd, Canucks 17th

LEAST SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME: Chicago 1st, Canucks 7th

WINNING % WHEN SCORING FIRST: Chicago 6th, Canucks 7th

WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 1: Canucks 4th, Chicago 9th

WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 2: Canucks 2nd, Chicago 4th

FACEOFFS: Chicago 3rd, Canucks 7th

We'll have updates for you as they happen. In the meantime, let's allow the power of YouTube to get you in the groove:

1. Rypien vs Eager. Short and sweet.

2. Mitchell crushes Toews. What day of the week is it, Johnny? No, "ow" and "f*ck" are not days of the week.

3. Line Brawl! March 2009. Byfuglien, you're an ass.

4. Line Brawl 1982. Blast From The past!

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