Blackhawks look to stay hot vs. Canucks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will take the ice Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks for the first time since clinching their ninth consecutive playoff berth.

Team captain Jonathan Toews and his teammates do not take the streak for granted.

"There's no given that you're going to make the playoffs every year," Toews told the Chicago Tribune. "I think you've seen teams like Winnipeg, Dallas and Colorado that have made good runs, made the playoffs one year and then don't make it the next year.

"Even in the East, it's a lot tighter this year, but there's good teams that are on the bubble that just can't really seem to keep up. So, for us in this day and age to get to that number is a huge accomplishment."

Several other milestones likely await Chicago (47-20-5), which leads the Western Conference with 99 points. A win or non-regulation loss against Vancouver (28-34-9) would give the Blackhawks 100-plus points for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last nine years. Chicago has won five games in a row and 17 of its past 20.

A potent offense has vaulted Chicago past the Minnesota Wild for the top spot in the conference. Patrick Kane leads the team with 79 points (team-leading 32 goals, 47 assists), and Artemi Panarin is next with 66 points (24 goals, 42 assists). Both players scored Sunday as the Blackhawks posted a five-goal third period en route to a 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Kane has points in five of his past six games and will try to improve his case for earning back-to-back Hart Trophy honors as the league's most valuable player. Panarin has a six-game point streak (four goals, four assists) and 16 multi-point efforts this season.

Vancouver has not had nearly as much success on offense this season. The Canucks are winless in their last six games (0-4-2) and have scored one goal or fewer in three of those contests. The team's top scorers are Bo Horvat with 47 points (team-leading 20 goals, 27 assists) and Henrik Sedin with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists).

A difficult season took another unwanted turn as the team announced that Markus Granlund would undergo season-ending wrist surgery. Granlund, 23, scored a career-high 19 goals with 13 assists in 69 games. He is expected to make a full recovery for next season.

"Losing a guy like him is going to be tough for us," Horvat told the Vancouver Sun. "He was a huge part of our team and had a pretty impressive year. It just shows his character. (His wrist) has pretty much been bugging him all year -- and even for the last couple of years -- and for him to play through that is impressive."

Chicago's Corey Crawford is expected to start in net after sitting out Sunday because of an illness. Crawford is 29-15-3 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .921 save percentage this season.

For Vancouver, Ryan Miller is expected to start. He owns a 17-22-6 mark with a 2.76 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season.

Richard Bachman will be Miller's likely backup Tuesday night because fellow netminder Jakob Markstrom has food poisoning and did not make the trip to Chicago.
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