CHICAGO — David Booth scored his first goal as a Vancouver Canuck in the United Center and tonight will play his first game of the season in the Madhouse on Madison.
Booth will start on the fourth line as coach Alain Vigneault eases him back into the lineup for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks (5:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040).
“I think it’s a good plan,” said Booth, who will start on a line with Max Lapierre and Dale Weise. ” It’s tough when you haven’t played a game in 10 months and everyone else has played 14, 15 games, so I like the plan.”
Vigneault said how long Booth stays on the fourth line will be up to him.
“Obviously in David’s case, no training camp and a few practices with the team and working extremely hard to rehab his injury, I’m not too sure what to expect,” Vigneault said after this morning’s game-day skate. “So we’ll see how he does tonight and depending how on how comfortable he looks we’ll adjust his ice time as we move forward.”
Booth suffered a groin injury during fitness testing on the first day of training camp and has missed more than five weeks.
“Your first game back you hear the adage, keep it simple, and I think you just try to work your way in, playing the body, not making any dumb decisions or trying to do too much,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, not try to do too much.”
Cory Schneider will get the start in goal tonight and attempt to bounce back from a sub-par outing against the Dallas Stars last Friday night, when he surrendered a couple of soft goals.
“They have obviously been the best team in the NHL so far,” Schneider said of the Blackhawks. “For us, it’s a good test to come in here and see where we’re at and hopefully get two points.”
The 12-0-3 Hawks have yet to lose a game in regulation and can match a NHL record for most starts without a regulation loss tonight. That record of 16 was set by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks.
The Canucks would dearly love to snap that streak, but the players are adamant that they don’t need any extra motivation against the Hawks.
“Obviously we are aware of it, but as far as it being a motivator, beating this team in here is motivation enough,” said winger Jannik Hansen.
The Hawks, too, were trying to downplay the streak after their game-day skate.
“Nothing changes,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. “This is our second game against Vancouver and we want to get back at them a little bit for coming up short last time. We’re in our own building this time and we have to take advantage of that. We didn’t finish the game very well last time so we want to bounce back from that a little bit.”
The Canucks beat the Hawks 2-1 in a shootout on Feb. 1 at Rogers Arena.
“We always have intense games with these guys and the rivalry is as good as any NHL rivalry out there,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “I think when we play Vancouver the first thought to our heads is discipline and let’s be smart. I know the last time in their building the pace of the game was very intense and very fast and they’ve got a quick team and have added some guys to their lineup, too. We expect a very dangerous opponent tonight.”
Roberto Luongo played in that Feb. 1 game and some thought he would get the start again tonight. Vigneault was not about to disclose his reasons for going with Schneider.
“There are a lot of factors that go into picking the goaltender, especially when you’ve got two quality goaltenders like we do,” Vigneault said. “But I have been pretty consistent with that since the beginning. I keep that to myself without divulging any of the reasons and that is what we’re going to continue to do.”
The Hawks will be without defenceman Brent Seabrook tonight. He took a puck in the groin area in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings. With Corey Crawford out with a suspected concussion, Ray Emery will make his third straight start in goal. Emery is a perfect 5-0-0 this season.
At this morning’s skate, Jordan Schroeder was centring Zack Kassian and Chris Higgins, while Ryan Kesler skated between Mason Raymond and Hansen. The top line of the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows remained intact.
• PLAYERS TO WATCH
Hawks: Patrick Kane is among the NHL leaders with 21 points and has had seven multi-point games this season. The Blackhawks are 77-8-13 when Kane posts a multi-point game and 7-0-0 this season.
Canucks: Booth hasn’t played in 10 months and did not finish well last season, when he had just one point in his last 11 regular-season games and one point in six playoff games.
The Hawks are without defenceman goalie Corey Crawford (upper body), winger Daniel Carcillo (lower body), winger Rostislav Olesz (knee) and defenceman Steve Montador (concussion).
The Canucks are missing centre Manny Malhotra (eye), who is out for the season.
ICE CHIPS: With Booth back, winger Aaron Volpatti will be a healthy scratch tonight along with defencemen Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker … Centre Andrew Ebbett cleared waivers and was reassigned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves … The Canucks are 3-1-2 in the last six regular-season visits to the United Center.