Canucks host Blackhawks with time on Goldobin's side
Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks
- Chicago lost, 4-1, to the Devils in New Jersey last Saturday night, dropping the first two games of its six-game road trip by a combined score of 8-1. The Blackhawks have a minus-9 goal differential on the road this season (+19 goal differential at home).
- Vancouver dropped a 3-1 home decision to the Blues prior to the holiday break, losing its fourth straight tilt, and falling to 1-7-1 in the last nine games overall. The Canucks have been outscored 119-98 in 2017-18 -- the fourth-worst goal differential in the league.
- Tonight marks the first of three meetings between the Blackhawks and Canucks in 2017-18. Chicago is 4-0-1 in its last five games vs. Vancouver overall.
- Patrick Kane potted Chicago's lone goal against the Devils on Saturday night, giving him a team-high 15 markers on the year, and 300 in his NHL career. Kane has nine points (2g, 7a) during his current seven-game scoring streak vs. the Canucks.
- Brock Boeser lit the lamp for the third straight game last Saturday night, giving him nine markers in his last 12 games, and a team-high 20 on the season. Boeser is the first Canuck rookie to score 20 goals in a season since Daniel Sedin had 20 in 2000-01.
- Including zero power-play goals in their last six tilts, the Blackhawks have clicked on just 1-of-32 (3.1 percent) of their chances with the man-advantage this month -- easily the worst in the NHL. Vancouver has killed just 72.5 percent of its opponents' power-play opportunities in December (third worst in the league).
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Nikolay Goldobin lost a teammate, but might have gained more ice time.
Alexander Burmistrov's departure from the Vancouver Canucks to his native Russia means that Goldobin, a fellow Russian, is in line -- with others -- for more playing time when Vancouver (15-17-5) hosts the Chicago Blackhawks (17-13-5) on Thursday night.
"Where's my friend?" Goldobin joked in front of reporters Wednesday.
Burmistrov, 26, departed from the Canucks following their 5-4 overtime loss at San Jose on Dec. 21. His disappointment with limited playing time was well known, but he denied it prompted him to go home. He produced only two goals and four assists in 24 games with the Canucks after signing as a free agent from the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason.
The Canucks granted Burmistrov his release -- which had curious timing because the NHL's roster freeze was supposed to be in effect -- around Christmas. Postmedia reported Wednesday that he signed with his hometown team, Ak-Bars Kazan of the Kontinental Hockey League.
"I honestly didn't know," Goldobin said of Burmistrov's intention to leave. "He was my good friend. He's older, he helped me a lot, he was like my Russian 'dad,' but I have a good team, good friends here."
Goldobin, 22, was acquired from the Sharks on the eve of the trade deadline for Jannik Hansen. The Moscow native is considered one of the most promising young Canucks forwards because of his offensive abilities.
With only a goal and an assist in eight games, Goldobin has not played as much as he and many talk-show callers had hoped. But Goldobin, who has also played in the minors this season and spent most of his tenure with the Sharks organization on the farm, is not complaining.
"I don't want to go now, I'm in the NHL right now," he said flatly. "Not thinking about it."
The Canucks lost another Russian in the summer when defenseman Nikita Tryamkin also decided to return home. It was clear that Tryamkin was uncomfortable with the North American lifestyle. Goldobin has appeared extremely comfortable off the ice, but Canucks coach Travis Green wants him to create some discomfort for opponents on it.
Green is also seeking a much better defensive effort from his injury-riddled club, which is 1-7-1 since top center Bo Horvat was sidelined with a fractured foot
"You've got to be on the right side of the puck," Green said. "You've got to commit to it."
Green does not question the commitment of rookie Brock Boeser, who is on a three-game goal streak. Unfortunately, the goals did not make much of a difference because the Canucks have lost four straight games.
"Personally, it's obviously going good, but it would be a lot better if we were winning games," Boeser said.
Boeser will not be shooting at veteran Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who was placed on injured reserve for the second time this month with an undisclosed problem. Anton Forsberg is Chicago's anointed starter for now. Forsberg is 1-4-3 with a 3.12 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 11 games (eight starts) this season.
The Blackhawks called up journeyman Jeff Glass, 32, from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford Ice Hogs, to play the backup role. Glass backstopped Canada to the 2005 world junior championship.
The Calgary native was named Canadian junior hockey's goaltender of the year in 2005. But Glass, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators 89th overall in 2004, has yet to play an NHL game after bouncing around the minors and KHL.
Depending on Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's mood, Glass could get another chance to shine in British Columbia, where was a standout in junior with the Kootenay Ice, or later in his home province of Alberta, where the Blackhawks head after Thursday for games against Calgary and Edmonton.
The Blackhawks are looking to end a two-game losing skid. As for skaters who will stop Boeser and company, Quenneville probably will lean heavily on fourth liners Lance Bouma, who played junior in Vancouver, and Tommy Wingels. Former combatants while playing for Calgary and San Jose, the two wingers now get along quite well.
"I don't know if (our relationship) was that great," Bouma told the Chicago Tribune. "I think he could probably say the same thing. We got after it a little bit on the ice."
Wingels suggested the two, who are known for their abrasiveness and ability to score timely goals, have put their hostility for each other behind them.
"You get excited when a similar guy you know, who thinks the game the same way, signs (with the same team)," Wingels told the Tribune. "Whatever happened in the past is the past."
Updated December 28, 2017