The word “rivalry” has been overused so much in the NHL. Just because you’re playing on an NBC “Rivalry Wednesday” broadcast, it doesn’t mean you have a rivalry.
The Canucks and Blackhawks are the epitome of a true rivalry. They have a recent history of having some heated playoff battles. They hit each other, legally and illegally. They hate each other. The fanbases hate each other. Even Chicago’s professional media throw all journalistic integrity and professionalism out the door when these two teams meet.
And as much as Patrick Kane denies it, tonight’s game shouldn’t be any different.
After all, there are still seedings and regular season titles at stake. The Blackhawks are on an historic run, not having lost a game in regulation in a zillion days (okay that might be an exaggeration, but they are 9-0-2 in their last 11 games), and is a win away from clinching the Presidents’ Trophy. Meanwhile, 44 games into a 48-game season, the Canucks are still trying to find their way, though they’re somehow 1 point in 3 games away from winning their 5th straight Northwest Division title anyway.
20-year old Frankie Corrado will make his NHL debut tonight – on a top-4 pairing with Alex Edler, no less – in place of the injured Keith Ballard. What better way to get acquainted to the NHL than playing your first ever NHL game against a heated rival and the best team in the league, eh?
After missing 5 games, Chris Higgins will also make his return to the lineup. He practiced on a line with Derek Roy and Ryan Kesler this morning so here’s hoping his return somehow gets the Canucks offense going (again).
25-13-7, 57 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)
This will be the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams this regular season. They split the first 2 meetings; both previous games went to a shootout.
Jonathan Toews has had a Hart Trophy caliber season and many believe he deserves to be in the running. He has 14 points (5G-9A) in his last 11 games. He’s also tied with Kane for the team lead in goals (21) and is second on the team in scoring with 46 points.
Overall, he’s 5th in the NHL in goals, 10th in points, and 3rd in plus/minus with an impressive plus-27 rating.
After a stretch of scoring 23 goals in 6 games earlier this month, the Canucks offense has hit a bit of a rough patch. In their last 3 games, they’ve been outshot 108-66 and have just 3 goals in that span. If Henrik Sedin thought last Saturday’s game against the Wings, in which the Wings carried much of the play and outshot the Canucks by a 34-14 margin, was “one of our best games in a few weeks”, then they have a way to go yet to be able to truly contend when the real season begins next week.