Facing one of their biggest conference rivals might be what the Vancouver Canucks need to break out of their funk.
The Canucks look to avoid a third straight loss when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night in a rematch of another thrilling playoff series between the Western Conference powers.
Vancouver (6-7-1) opened a six-game trip with a 5-1 win at Calgary on Tuesday for its second straight victory, but dropped the next two contests. If there is something positive to take from those losses, the Canucks were more competitive during a 3-2 loss at St. Louis on Friday than they were while falling 5-1 at Minnesota a night earlier.
"If we fight as hard as we did (Friday) and have that desperation level, we'll be fine," goaltender Roberto Luongo told the Canucks' official website.
Facing the Central Division-leading Blackhawks (8-2-3) could provide a spark the reigning West champions need.
After being knocked out in the conference semifinals by Chicago in 2009 and 2010, Vancouver finally got the best of the Blackhawks by beating them in seven games in the first round last season. The Canucks blew a 3-0 lead in that series, but Luongo made 31 saves and Alex Burrows scored the winner 5:22 into overtime to give them a 2-1 victory in Game 7.
Though Vancouver won the last two meetings to split the regular-season series with the Blackhawks in 2010-11, Chicago outscored the Canucks 11-5 while winning Games 4 and 6 at the United Center.
Burrows had three goals with five assists during the regular season and playoffs against the Blackhawks in 2010-11, but is day-to-day after he left Friday's contest because of back spasms. Burrows scored his fifth of the season prior to leaving the game.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have combined for nine goals and 20 assists, but the twins have been held to one assist over the last two games. They combined for five goals and eight assists at Chicago overall in 2010-11.
Just 4-4-1 with a 3.19 goals-against average this season, Luongo has allowed seven goals on 41 shots while losing his last two games at Chicago - both in the playoffs. However, he made 32 saves during Vancouver's 3-0 victory in the teams' last regular season meeting at the United Center on Dec. 3.
A visit from the Canucks also might provide a boost for the Blackhawks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped Friday when they lost 5-4 in overtime at Tampa Bay.
Patrick Sharp scored twice, Marian Hossa had a goal with an assist and Patrick Kane added three assists as Chicago blew a two-goal lead to lose for just the third time in regulation or overtime.
"I think we're playing some good hockey, doing some good things," captain Jonathan Toews told the Blackhawks' official website. "We have to keep applying that pressure. There's a lot of little things we can do better."
Kane has two goals and five assists in the last three games. He totaled four assists in three postseason home games against the Canucks in April.
Hossa has two goals with four assists in his last three games overall.
After he was given Friday night off, Corey Crawford is expected to be back in net trying to improve on his 6-2-2 record and 2.33 GAA. Crawford is 4-4-0 with a 2.06 GAA during the regular season and playoffs against the Canucks.