Sports Hockey

Hated rivals could spark Canucks

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Canucks players like Ryan Kesler needs to start scoring.

Canucks players like Ryan Kesler needs to start scoring. (REUTERS)

If things continue going the way they have for the Vancouver Canucks, it's probably a good thing that Wednesday's game is their last one in front of hometown fans and media until the last week of February.

After falling to the worst team in the Western Conference in the Edmonton Oilers, the Canucks welcome one of the best teams in the Chicago Blackhawks to Rogers Arena.

Then again, maybe a meeting with a hated rival is just the spark they need to play "more inspired" hockey and with "more urgency," both of which as coach Mike Sullivan insisted they were lacking in Monday's defeat.

Of all the teams currently holding a playoff spot in the West, Vancouver has the worst home record at 14-8-5. But with a five-game road trip looming and a two-week Olympic break following that, they have a chance to end their latest homestand on a high note, having gone 1-2-0 so far.

"Nobody up here is pointing fingers anywhere," Sullivan said following the 4-2 loss to the Oilers. "We all have to do a better job.

"We certainly had chances to score, it just didn't go in for us. We've got to control more than we are right now so that we get the results, and we get them consistently."

What the Canucks could really use is their top players contributing. Both their goals Monday came from Jordan Schroeder, who was playing his first game in three months. Daniel Sedin has not scored in 13 games and has just one point in his last eight. Ryan Kesler has one goal in his last 10 games while Alex Burrows is still looking to score for the first time this season.

That, folks, is the team's top line, with captain Henrik Sedin still sidelined.

"It's hard to win unless your best players are your best players, it's hard to win consistently," Sullivan said. "We've got to find a way to get our top guys going here. The team relies on them to be more constant and making contributions on the scoresheet and it's hard to win in the absence of it."

Wednesday's showdown will be third meeting this year between Chicago and Vancouver, with both teams having won once. However, the Blackhawks come into town while in a bit of a slump themselves.

Prior to Tuesday's game against the Calgary Flames, they had lost three straight in the midst of a battle with the St. Louis Blues for top spot in the Central Division.

Either way, a clash between the Canucks and Blackhawks always has potential to be a doozy. And just might be what Vancouver needs to get back on track.


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