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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, March 29th (All times eastern)

Vancouver Canucks (40-25-9) at Chicago Blackhawks (40-22-11), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks are pushing for home-ice advantage in the playoff's first round, but they haven't been able to get over the hump yet. They can pick up two big points tonight in a meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

The Canucks enter this contest with 89 points, good enough for fifth overall in the Western Conference. However, thanks to wins in six of their last eight games, they are just two points behind fourth-seeded Chicago, which has one game in hand over Vancouver.

The Canucks are also just three points behind Calgary for first place in the Northwest Division after the Flames defeated Minnesota on Saturday. Vancouver has also played one fewer game than Calgary.

Roberto Luongo should return to net tonight for the Canucks after sitting out Friday's 4-1 win over Colorado. Luongo has lost two of his last three starts after going 16-2-1 over his previous 19 outings.

Jason LaBarbera started in his place versus the Avalanche and halted 22 shots in his first start since February 13. Daniel and Henrik Sedin both registered a goal and an assist in the victory.

Pavol Demitra tallied the 299th goal of his career and Alexander Edler also scored for Vancouver, which has now split the first four games of a six-game road trip that ends in Minnesota on Tuesday. The Canucks have still lost five of their last seven on the road, where they are 18-14-5 this season.

The Blackhawks allowed the Canucks to creep closer in the standings thanks to a recent five-game losing streak, the club's longest of the season, but Chicago has since posted three straight wins to stay ahead of Vancouver.

The club's latest win came on Friday, a 3-2 overtime win over New Jersey. Brent Seabrook notched the game-winner, one-timing a pass from Martin Havlat past Martin Brodeur on the glove side.

Havlat finished with a goal and two assists. Nikolai Khabibulin made 28 saves.

Chicago wraps a five-game homestand tonight and is 21-8-7 as the host this year. The club plays in Montreal on Tuesday before returning home for two straight contests.

The Blackhawks had won three straight over the Canucks, including the first two meetings this year, before Vancouver's 7-3 home win on February 7 gave the club its 11th win in its last 15 versus Chicago. The Canucks, though, have lost two straight in the Windy City since winning five in a row there.

03/29 15:02:57 ET


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