Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Patrick Sharp

While the Canucks carry baggage with them, Blackhawks face first Game 7 since 1995

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When it comes down to tonight’s two Game 7 matches, the Chicago Blackhawks share some things in common with the Buffalo Sabres. Along with being a lower seed playing this decisive game on the road, they also somehow go into this contest with far less controversy and confusion surrounding their team.

The Canucks face questions about the psyche of their franchise goalie Roberto Luongo, their killer instinct after dropping three straight games and criticism for their GM’s penalty-related complaints.

It’s pretty strange that the defending Stanley Cup champions go into a Game 7 with a relatively clean slate, but that seems to be the case. Here’s the interesting thing, though: the team actually never faced the do-or-die pressure of a Game 7 in last year’s playoffs. That probably underscores just how dominant they were in their Cup run in 2010, but it shows that Vancouver isn’t the only team under the microscope.

In fact, Chicago hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 1995, when the team beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. The Blackhawks and Leafs would need to meet in the Stanley Cup finals for such an event to happen again.

Chicago’s all-time record in Game 7 contests: 5-4

Vancouver’s all-time record in Game 7 contests: 5-4 as well, with their most recent game being a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars in 2007.

For all the well-deserved criticism sent the Canucks’ way, young players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have never played in a Game 7 before in their NHL careers. Kane can only look to his experiences in the minors and maybe that 2010 gold medal game he played against his current teammate for comparable feelings of mutual desperation. He still thinks the heat is on the Canucks, though.

“It was in the OHL,” Kane said of an Ontario Hockey League showdown when he was playing for the London Knights. “We were actually up 3-0 on the Soo Greyhounds, and they came back 3-3 and we ended up winning at home. It was a pretty fun game to be a part of.”

(snip)

“I still feel all the pressure’s on them,” Kane said. “They’re the ones who were up 3-0, they’re the first seed in the West, they were kind of predicted to win the Cup this year and go really far.”

Kane’s probably right, but this young group’s first Game 7 provides a nice little wrinkle to all the Canucks-centric hysteria. It just proves that Chicago faces pressure as well, even if they probably don’t need to worry about being the laughing stock of the hockey world in defeat.

Video: Simmonds drops the gloves with Wood

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Wayne Simmonds is not only a productive power forward, but he’s one tough customer.

He showed that again Saturday, dropping the gloves with Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils during the first period.

The fight occurred right after Wood drove Radko Gudas hard into the boards on the forecheck. The scrap didn’t last long, however, with Simmonds landing a few shots and then taking the Devils forward to the ice.

Simmonds was assessed an extra roughing minor.

We have a (minor league) trade to announce

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Michael Latta #17 of the Los Angeles Kings during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings have made a minor league trade on Saturday.

The Blackhawks acquired forward Michael Latta, who has 113 games of NHL experience with the Washington Capitals, in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta will report to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, according to the Blackhawks. In 29 games this season with the Ontario Reign, Latta has two goals and six points.

Schilling, 28, is expected to be assigned to the Reign, the team said in a release.

In 40 games this season with the IceHogs, Schilling has seven goals and 17 points.

Singing the Blues: St. Louis continues recent skid

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Make that three straight losses for the St. Louis Blues, who have only four wins in their last 10 games.

The Blues lost to the Winnipeg Jets by a final score of 5-3 on Saturday. Late attempts at a comeback from four goals down were fleeting and unsuccessful. Once in competition for the Central Division, St. Louis has fallen off the pace in these times of struggle and is now part of the pack fighting for a wild card spot in the West.

In the last three games, the Blues have given up 18 goals. Eighteen goals.

That is highly uncharacteristic of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, and the Blues have been one of the stingiest clubs in the NHL over the last five years. Jake Allen‘s struggles have been well documented and he didn’t even travel with the team to Winnipeg.

These are difficult times for the Blues, who turned to Pheonix Copley, who had never started an NHL game before today, in goal versus the Jets.

Despite giving up five goals on 29 shots, Hitchcock praised the play of Copley. And he likes the amount of scoring chances his team is producing. But their own mistakes keep piling up, and they keep piling into the St. Louis net at what is now an alarming rate.

The Blues trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but gave up a Bryan Little power play goal just over two minutes later and they fell further behind. It was a critical moment in the game for St. Louis. The floodgates opened from there for the Jets.

“We left the game out there ,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“It’s tough. Quite frankly, we’re allowing too many goals against, obviously. Too many easy scoring chances. We’re getting scored on killing penalties now. If we clean up our own end, both five-on-five and five-on-four, it will help us a lot.”

Desjardins: Horvat is ‘fine’ after taking a slap shot to the head

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Before the celebration of Henrik Sedin reaching 1,000 career points, there was plenty of concern for one of the Canucks’ top young players.

Late in the first period, Bo Horvat was skating behind the Florida net when he was struck in the back of the head by a Nikita Tryamkin slap shot. Horvat immediately hit the ice. He was down for a brief period, but did skate off under his own power.

The good news: He returned to the game after missing a brief time.

On Saturday, the Canucks sent out a photo showing the damage Horvat suffered — a fairly large cut to the back of his head, which required several stitches.

“I would assume he was forced out by the spotter,” said coach Willie Desjardins following Vancouver’s win on Friday. “Whenever you see something like that, you’ll probably check it out, especially if he was bleeding.”

“They took a look at him and he’s fine.”

More good news for the Canucks.

In his third NHL season, Horvat is emerging as a critical component of this team. He’s 21 years old, is tied with Henrik for the team lead in points, with 30 in 47 games, and is on his way to next weekend’s NHL All-Star event. Further to that, the Canucks are in a transition, with a younger core expected to eventually take over from the lasting members of the current core, most notably Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who are both 36 years old.

The Canucks are also in a fight for a playoff spot, and injury to one of their top centers, which Horvat is, would certainly make the hunt for the post-season that much more difficult.

Sitting one point out of the second wild card spot in the West, the Canucks begin a three-game road trip by facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.