Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks and Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks try and knock down an airborne puck during the third period in NHL action on February 01, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks rarely need a motivational boost when facing the Chicago Blackhawks but they will have one anyway Tuesday at the Madhouse on Madison, more formally known as the United Center.
At 12-0-3, the Blackhawks are within 60 minutes of touching NHL history for starts to a season without a regulation defeat. The Anaheim Ducks set the mark of 16 in the 2006-07 campaign and went on to capture the Stanley Cup. It's not hard to imagine the Madhouse even madder than usual when the Canucks and 'Hawks hit the ice for a 5:35 p.m. Pacific time puck drop.
“Chicago is obviously one of our biggest rivals so to beat them anytime feels good,” Canuck alternate captain Kevin Bieksa said Monday before the team flew to the Windy City. “It would be extra special to put an end to their streak. They're on a good run right now and playing some good hockey. There is a reason they haven't lost in regulation. There is some extra emphasis on the game, for sure.”
If the Canucks manage to halt the 'Hawks, it would be another feather in their cap. Last season, they went into Detroit with the Red Wings on an NHL record 23-game home-ice win streak and edged the Wings 4-3 in a shootout.
In this case, a shootout victory would still prolong the Blackhawks streak. Only a regulation Vancouver triumph will end it.
“I'm sure Chicago is going to be giving it everything and, for us, we're in a similar situation to last year with Detroit, going in there and trying to put an end to their streak,” Bieksa added. “We take a lot of pride in that so it's going to be a fun game.”
The Canucks, 8-3-3 and losers of two straight, were not so secretly hoping the Blackhawks would beat the L.A. Kings on Sunday – they did 3-2 – to keep their run intact and set up Tuesday's showdown. Alex Burrows confirmed this Monday.
“Personally, I was pretty happy that they won against L.A. so we'd get the chance to go in there and, hopefully, beat them in regulation,” Burrows said. “Our group has played some big games in that building so it's nothing new to us. It's going to be loud and some things are going to happen. It's probably the building where we've had the most thrilling games, or high-energy games back and forth. You never know what's going to happen in that building.”
Well, maybe you know one thing. The American national anthem sung by tenor Jim Cornelison will be loud and stir the soul.
“That building is always rocking,” agreed Ryan Kesler, who has a goal and an assist in two games since returning from off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries. “Their fans are incredible. It's a fun building to play in. The Blackhawks have had a really good start obviously and their record shows it. We know what we're up against.”
While the Blackhawks' pursuit of history will be the game's main focus, it will also afford the Canucks an opportunity to show they're capable of beating a team outside the Northwest Division. Coach Alain Vigneault's skaters are 6-0-1 against Northwest rivals but have just two victories in seven starts (2-3-2) against the rest of the league – and one of those came via shootout, a 2-1 decision Feb. 1 over these very 'Hawks.
After the Blackhawk game, the Canucks will play Thursday in Dallas, Friday in Nashville and Sunday in Detroit.
“As much as I think our division is a lot tougher than you guys give it credit for, I think this is a really good test for us,” commented Vigneault. “Obviously it's a really good opportunity to show the strengths of our team. But I think, right now, everybody is focused on the game against Chicago. We all know Chicago's record and we all know the rivalry we have with them.
“I don't think we'll need a motivational speech and obviously they won't need it either," continued the coach. “I don't think we've ever needed motivational speeches in the past anytime we've played in Chicago. They're great hockey games, they're really entertaining and that's what we're going to have Tuesday.”
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