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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, January 23rd (All times eastern)

Chicago Blackhawks (35-12-4) at Vancouver Canucks (30-18-2), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - While the Canucks have a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender in Roberto Luongo, the play of Antti Niemi this season has given the Blackhawks options in net.

Chicago could turn to its backup again tonight as it continues an eight-game road trip versus Vancouver at General Motors Place.

Niemi has made 15 starts to Cristobal Huet's 36 this season, but has made the most of his opportunities. He stopped 19 shots in Thursday's 3-1 win over Calgary, improving to 13-3-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average and four shutouts this season. Huet, meanwhile, is a solid 22-9-3 with a 2.24 GAA and four shutouts.

Though it is unknown who will start in net for Chicago tonight, Niemi has started both of the Blackhawks' games versus the Canucks this year. He made 28 saves in a 3-2 home loss to Vancouver on October 21, then posted a 30-save shutout in Vancouver on November 22 in a 1-0 win.

Huet, meanwhile, is 2-2-0 with a tie and 2.55 GAA in his career versus the Canucks.

Chicago is 3-1-0 on its longest road trip of the season and 14-7-3 as the guest this year. Ben Eager was credited with the game-winning goal in Thursday's victory over the Flames, as a Tomas Kopecky shot hit off his leg and went into the net.

Patrick Kane also scored and Duncan Keith sealed things with an empty-net goal, as Chicago won for the fourth time in five games and for the 16th time in its last 21 contests.

"Everybody played hard and played well. We had the puck a lot and had some high quality chances," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "We played the way we wanted to play and found a way to win a tight game."

Chicago, which remained two games back of San Jose for the most points in the NHL with 74, has beaten Vancouver just four times in the last 11 meetings, but those four wins have come in the last seven matchups. It has also won two of its last three trips to GM Place.

While the 'Hawks face a decision in net, it is likely that Roberto Luongo will make his 22nd start in a row tonight. Luongo, 10-7-0 with a tie and 2.10 GAA lifetime versus the Blackhawks, made 20 saves in Thursday's 4-3 win over the Stars.

Kyle Wellwood scored for the first time in 10 games in what turned out to be the game-winner when Dallas netted a goal in the game's final seconds.

"That's the hope whenever you score that it'll bring some confidence and the chances come easier and you're able to score," Wellwood told Vancouver's Web site "It was nice to get one tonight."

Alex Burrows scored short-handed to give him 13 goals and two assists over a 10-game point streak, while Christian Ehrhoff and Mason Raymond also tallied in Vancouver's third straight win. The Canucks are also 10-3-1 over their last 14 games and are two points behind Colorado for first place in the Northwest Division.

Already without regular defenseman Willie Mitchell (upper body) and Kevin Bieksa (left ankle), Sami Salo left the Dallas game with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight along with Mitchell. Bieksa remains on injured reserve.

To add depth, the Canucks recalled defenseman Nolan Baumgartner from Manitoba of the American Hockey League on Friday.

Vancouver won the opener of a four-game homestand on Thursday and claimed a victory for the sixth time in its last eight home games. The Canucks are 20-7-1 as the host this year.

01/23 11:09:33 ET

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