Blackhawks News

Game Preview: Kris Versteeg Returns as Chicago Blackhawks Take On Vancouver Canucks

By Brian Kinkade
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Feb 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin (22) makes a pass against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in the shootout. The Blackhawks tied an NHL record for scoring at least one point in 16 consecutive games to open a season. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After breaking his wrist in the Winter Classic, Kris Versteeg will make his long-awaited return to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup, tonight.  Versteeg is back just in time to face the Hawks’ ex-rivals, the Vancouver Canucks.  Versteeg was having a resurgence, this season before his injury.  In his absence, the Hawks were a mediocre 8-7-1.  Hopefully, the combination of Versteeg’s return and 7 more consecutive home games will launch the Hawks to the top of the Central Division.

In his absence, the Hawks were a mediocre 8-7-1.  Hopefully, the combination of Versteeg’s return and 7 more consecutive home games will launch the Hawks to the top of the Central Division.

This will be the 2nd game of the 3-game season series between the Hawks and Canucks.  The Canucks defeated the Hawks by a score of 4-1, back on November 23rd while the they were on the anual Circus Trip.  Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM.  Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Canucks.

[table id=123 /]

Offensively, the Hawks are one of the better teams in the league and tonight they will be up against an average Vancouver defense.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a Canucks offensive attack that has been average this season.

On the Power Play, the Hawks are hovering around league-average.  This includes Monday’s garbage quality performance against the Arizona Coyotes.  Tonight, the Hawks will be up against the excellent Canucks Penalty Kill.

The Hawks are the best in the league on the Penalty Kill and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a roughly average Vancouver Power Play.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great this season and tonight they will be taking draws against a Canucks squad that has struggled in the dot.

In terms of puck possession, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be fighting for the puck against a Canucks team that has been roughly average at possessing the puck.

The Hawks have the advantage tonight.  With the Canucks potent Penalty Killing, it will be tough for the Hawks to re-establish their Power Play, but they should be able to when considering the offensive talent on the Hawks roster.  However, when it comes to 5-on-5, the Hawks are clearly the superior team.

The Canucks have a record of 29-20-3, which is good for 61 points, 4th place in the Pacific Division and a current hold on the 2nd and final Western Conference Wild Card spot.  Vancouver has not played well against teams with winning records as of late.  In their previous 6 games against teams above .500, they have won only one of those games.

Depth down the middle will likely be tested tonight, as centerman Nick Bonino will probably be out of tonight’s game after injuring his foot while blocking a shot on Monday night.  Fellow centerman, Henrik Sedinmissed practice on Tuesday but is likely to play.  Henrik and brother Daniel Sedin, are tied for the team lead in points with 44 apiece.  With 7 points in his last 6 games, Radim Vrbata is on a bit of a hot streak.

Starting in net tonight, for Vancouver, will likely be Eddie Lack.  Lack appears to be getting the nod over regular starter, Ryan Miller.  Lack has been solid in his 16 games this season, with a .916 Save Percentage.

The Hawks are currently 33-18-3 with 69 points, which has them sitting in 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are currently 5 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 9 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators.  

More good news after the return of Versteeg: Teuvo Teravainen will remain with the Hawks.  However, the bad news is that Teravainen looks to be a scratch tonight.  One has to think that he will be playing more often than not, otherwise he would have been sent down.  Versteeg was skating on a line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell during the morning skate.  Expect Patrick Kane to have a big night, especially after going pointless and taking a bad penalty against Arizona. With 4 goals in his last 2 games, what will Marian Hossa do to stay hot?  Jonathan Toews recorded 2 assists against Arizona and appears to be heating up.  Perhaps the captain’s goal-less streak ends tonight.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford is having a very good season with a .921 Save Percentage in 35 games played.

After Monday night’s productive but disappointing loss, the Hawks still have 7 more games to make this unusually long homestand as a standings climbing ladder.  However, the climb should probably start tonight.

Go Hawks!

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