VANCOUVER, B.C. — Ah, Vancouver: the city anyone who loves beauty loves to visit, home to the Canucks team that Chicago Blackhawks fans love to hate.
The Blackhawks will be without Marian Hossa tonight, who had to fly back to Chicago for a “family matter” according to coach Joel Quenneville. You hope everything is all right with whatever that situation is. In the meantime, the Blackhawks prep for the Canucks and we bring you the Five Things to watch in the latest installment of this heated rivalry.
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1. The Canucks will be one motivated bunch. Friday marked Vancouver’s first victory in their last six games. And what better way to build on that than to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions? The Blackhawks always have to be ready for the Canucks to come out fiery and determined, especially at Rogers Arena. Tonight will be no different.
2. Fill the Hossa void. We’re all aware of the great elements Hossa brings on both sides of the puck. But the Blackhawks will have to play as good of team defense as he does individually. Again, you don’t really worry about who’s going to score for the Blackhawks; someone always does. But no Hossa means one less superstar for the Canucks to focus on, and other Blackhawks will have to pick up for what’s left in his absence.
3. Get to Roberto Luongo. Don’t let Luongo’s 10-6-4 mark fool you. It’s not that he’s not making the stops, it’s just the Canucks aren’t scoring much (2.62 goals a game, 16th in the NHL). Luongo has a 2.31 goals-against average entering tonight’s game. The Blackhawks need to get to him. Get traffic by the net, keep those sticks active and be on the lookout for rebounds.
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4. Be active on defense. Duncan Keith has a point in five of his last six games. When the Blackhawks’ defense is active in trying to create offense, good things happen. The Blackhawks don’t need to take a game’s worth of long-distance shots — remember what we said about traffic above — but any time their defenders can get involved, the Blackhawks will be in good shape.
5. Who shall click tonight? We’re going with Patrick Sharp, but not with any shots from that left point. As any of us who watched Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Canucks from the spring of 2011 remember, Luongo knows that one is coming.