The Chicago Blackhawks will beat the Vancouver Canucks tonight 4-2, with Jonathan Toews scoring a third-period hat trick — or at least that’s how EA Sports sees it.
The Blackhawks posted the above summary from an NHL 12 video game simulation of tonight’s matchup — 9:00 p.m. at Vancouver — on their official Facebook page. The real game will be a lot more complicated, if only for the simplest reason: The professional hockey clubs of Chicago and Vancouver can’t seem to get along.
EA Sports did get one prediction correct; Jonathan Toews will be back in the line-up tonight after missing last game against Nashville and sitting out All-Star Weekend.
“I’m excited to be back,” Toews said after practice yesterday, “I took the time I think I needed this past week, and I feel I’m definitely ready.”
Toews won’t be the only Blackhawk to come back from an injury against the Canucks.
Patrick Sharp, who has been on Injured Reserve since breaking his wrist on January 8th against Detroit, will make his long awaited return to the Chicago roster — although he still has a broken bone in his wrist that may require surgery after the season.
“I’m ready to go,” Sharp said this morning, “I’m excited to play in this building.”
And he should be.
Before his wrist woes Sharp rattled off 17 points in 17 games, no other team would he prefer to continue that streak than against Vancouver.
But where the Blackhawks are dressing their best, the Canucks have decided to throw a wrench into the rivalry by starting backup Cory Schneider in net rather than Roberto Luongo.
In their first meeting of the year, in Chicago, Luongo made 38 saves in route to a 6-2 Canucks victory, but when they last played, in Vancouver, it was Schneider who got the start, and uncharacteristically gave up five goals — Schneider has seen 573 shots this season, only 39 have gotten past him giving him a .927 save percentage.
Yet, just as Chicago is, the Canucks will be playing their first tilt in seven days, and where Chicago entered the All-Star break riding a two-game losing streak, Vancouver exited the first half of the season earning points in five of their last six games.
“Were on the home stretch now,” Sharp said, “And it starts with a big one against our rival, it’s a good way to get started.”