Comeback Canucks welcome Blackhawks to their place
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — You could call them the Comeback Kids, but the Vancouver Canucks hope to discard that nickname soon.
The Canucks (7-10-1) have come back to win three of their past five games, and most others have required — often unsuccessful — rally attempts.
But the Canucks are looking to develop a different storyline Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks (12-4-2) at Rogers Arena.
“We'd like to come in and get the lead and maintain the lead, which would be nice,” defenseman Ben Hutton said. “But coming from behind just shows the character in this locker room.”
Vancouver's last two wins have come in overtime. Hutton was the hero on Thursday as he scored on a penalty shot in OT to give the Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Markus Granlund scored the extra-time winner two games ago, on Sunday, as the Canucks rallied to beat the Dallas Stars.
Rather than delivering on comebacks, the Canucks would prefer to stage a comeuppance — as in a climb up the standings from the NHL's nether regions.
Since winning their first four games of the season, the Canucks have not managed to win two in a row. The three aforementioned wins are the only victories that they have posted in their past 14 games.
Accordingly, defenseman Erik Gudbranson hopes that the “huge” win over Arizona — a team at the bottom of the NHL standings — will spark some badly needed momentum as the Canucks conclude a four-game homestand against the Blackhawks.
“We need to start somewhere,” Gudbranson said. “We need to put something together. We're passionate about winning. We want to win here.
“We don't want to feel like those guys that have to bury their heads at the grocery store and feel embarrassed. We want to be good every single night. There is a lot of character in this dressing room. We are constantly pushing ourselves.”
The usual push will need to be much bigger against the Blackhawks, who lead the Central Division despite having integrated six first-year players into their lineup. The Blackhawks have points in 12 of their past 13 games.
Winners of three Stanley Cups since 2010, they are succeeding at rebuilding on the fly — something the Canucks have also sought but struggled to do. Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, whose future with the team has been discussed less often this week, hopes their recent success will boost their chances against the Blackhawks.
“We are starting to get a few wins,” Desjardins said. “It should give us a little life going against Chicago. Chicago will play hard, and we know they are a real good team. I think we will come to the rink and have a good performance.”
Fatigue could be a factor as the Blackhawks play the second of back-to-back games after Friday's 3-2 victory in Calgary. But the Blackhawks could get energy from a comeback story of their own.
Rookie winger Vinnie Hinostroza is expected to return to Chicago's lineup after recovering quickly from concussion suffered Tuesday in a collision with Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey. According to Honotroza and coach Joel Quenneville, the player passed the league's concussion protocol.
“Anytime you're dealing with your head, it's a scary thing, so you want to be patient,” Hinostroza told the Chicago Tribune. “But, luckily, it was a quick turnaround. Usually, it's a bit longer. We had a nice two days off there, so I kind of just laid in bed, didn't move. I feel good now.”
Hinostroza, a 22-year-old Bartlett, Ill., native, was drafted by Chicago in the sixth round (169th overall) of the 2012 NHL entry draft and has spent most of the past two seasons in the minors, except seven games with Chicago last season. He had been playing on a line with stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before being sidelined.
The rookie does not think his recent inactivity will slow him down.
“Obviously, two days laying in bed, you get a bit out of shape,” Hinostroza told the Chicago Tribune. “But you get in shape quick here.”
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks hope their seven-game Circus Trip — so dubbed because it occurs each November when Barnum and Bailey and Ringley Bros. take over the United Center — will enable Hinostroza and other young players to bond with the rest of the team.
The trip started poorly with a 4-0 loss in Winnipeg, but the Blackhawks rebounded with their victory over the Flames on Friday night.
“We want these guys to come together as teammates,” general manager Stan Bowman told ESPN.com this week. “Right now, they don't know each other all that well.”
A win in Vancouver, where the teams' somewhat dormant rivalry still stokes ill will, could further strengthen the relationships. A victory could also help the Blackhawks improve on a so-so road record that contrasts sharply with their 8-1-2 home mark.
“This (road trip) is going to be a good benchmark for us as a team,” Bowman said.
If the Canucks want to discard their nickname, they will have to pay close attention to Chicago winger Marian Hossa, 37, who has five goals in his last six games and is tied for fourth in the league behind Patrik Laine (12), Sidney Crosby (11) and Michael Grabner (11). Hossa scored the controversial winning goal on Friday as he fell into Flames goaltender Brian Elliott.
“I just try to put the puck at the net right now,” Hossa told reporters afterward. “When you feel like the puck's going in for you, you just try to be around the net or shoot pucks to the net and try to make plays.”
Canucks G Ryan Miller, who missed Thursday's win with the flu, has been deemed healthy again. As a result, rookie G Michael Garteig was returned to Utica of the American Hockey League on Friday.