The Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks know they will be playing hockey come postseason time, but there are still some things at stake in Monday night's showdown between the clubs at Rogers Arena.
The Blackhawks, on a current 11-game point streak (9-0-2), have already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference and sit five points ahead of the East-leading Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. Chicago can claim the honor, which would be the club's first since 1990-91, with a victory over Vancouver and a regulation loss by the Penguins on Monday against the Ottawa Senators.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are sitting in first place in the Northwest Division with 57 points, six ahead of the idle Minnesota Wild with three games left to play for both clubs. That means Vancouver can claim its fifth straight division title with a point in tonight's game.
Chicago, which like Pittsburgh has four games left in the regular season, is coming off a rare loss following Saturday's 3-2 shootout setback to the Phoenix Coyotes. Patrick Kane scored in the tiebreaker for the Blackhawks, but Corey Crawford was beaten by both Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko after stopping 29 shots through overtime.
Brent Seabrook scored both of Chicago's regulation goals, each on the power play, while Kane and Nick Leddy had a pair of assists in the Blackhawks' first loss in eight games.
"We've found ways to win in overtime and shootouts more often than not," said Seabrook. "When it comes down to the end we have the confidence that we can win games, but it just didn't go that way for us tonight."
Forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Michal Rozsival both missed Saturday's loss with upper body injuries and are questionable for tonight after making the trip to Vancouver.
Chicago is playing three of its final four regular-season games on the road.
The Canucks, winners of the past two Presidents' Trophies, officially clinched a playoff spot with Saturday's 2-1 shootout triumph over the Detroit Red Wings. Maxim Lapierre had the lone shootout goal and Cory Schneider stopped all three skaters he faced.
Schneider made 33 saves through 65 minutes and Alexander Edler scored in regulation for the Canucks, who had lost three of four coming in but picked up their seventh straight win at home.
"We're just happy to get the win. It doesn't matter what the score is, we clinched a playoff spot. We're just happy with ourselves tonight," Lapierre said.
Already without defensemen Kevin Bieksa (lower body) and Chris Tanev (ankle) due to injury, blueliner Keith Ballard left Saturday's win in the third period with a minor injury and is day-to-day.
Winger Chris Higgins (knee) is also out for Vancouver, which will host Anaheim on Thursday before ending the regular season in Edmonton on Saturday.
The Canucks and Blackhawks have split two meetings this season, with each team picking up a home victory in a shootout. Vancouver has won four of the past six at home versus Chicago.