|Canucks next obstacle as Blackhawks chase postseason slot|
The Chicago Blackhawks will go for their sixth win in a row when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
Chicago (32-30-9, 73 points) remains outside of the top eight spots in the Western Conference playoff race, but it has closed the gap to a handful of points with 11 games remaining on its regular-season schedule.
The Blackhawks are trying to avoid back-to-back seasons without a playoff appearance for the first time in more than a decade.
The recent resurgence of goaltender Corey Crawford gives Chicago hope.
The 34-year-old netminder struggled in his return from a concussion, but he has shined in his past five starts. During that time, he has stopped 150 of 157 shots for a sparkling .955 save percentage.
Crawford is 12-15-2 with a 3.07 goals-against average and .907 save percentage on the season. He is coming off a shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens in which he stopped a career-high 48 shots.
"I just think he needed to shake the rust off," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said to the Chicago Tribune in reference to Crawford's turnaround. "Long time without playing. Even the last two years, he hasn't played that much. To play a bunch of games back-to-back-to-back probably helped him. He just seems to get better and better."
That will pose a challenge for Vancouver (30-32-10, 70 points), which trails the Blackhawks in the conference standings by three points. The Canucks will short rest after a 3-2 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday evening, which marked their second victory in the past three games but only their fourth win in the past 13 contests.
Vancouver will play without defenseman Chris Tanev, who suffered a likely season-ending foot injury last week when he blocked a slap shot from New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri.
Tanev and fellow defenseman Alexander Edler have missed big chunks of this season because of injuries, although Edler has returned to the lineup as of late.
"They're huge parts for our team," Canucks defenseman Alex Biega said to the Vancouver Sun. "The guys in the locker room know how valuable they are. Chris is the prototypical defenseman, not flashy, but he doesn't make any mistakes and he plays the right way. He'll do whatever it takes for the team.
"It's unfortunate. It seems like ever since I've been here, those guys have been injured a lot."
The Canucks could elect to rest goaltender Jacob Markstrom rather than start him on back-to-back nights. If that is the case, backup goaltender Thatcher Demko (3-1-2, 3.21 GAA, .895 GAA) could draw the assignment for his fifth career start.
Either goaltender will have to be aware of Blackhawks forward Brendan Perlini, who has been on a tear the past few games. Perlini will enter the game on a three-game goal streak and has eight goals in March.
Colliton said Perlini could become a standout player if he stayed focused.
"I think it's up to him," Colliton said to the Tribune. "We've all seen his shot and his skating and his size. What he's doing is he's impactful away from the puck. He's skating, he's getting himself in position to create turnovers, he's winning races and he's very involved. And if that continues, then he will continue to produce."
--Field Level Media