The Christmas break is over and the teams are back on the ice as the Chicago Blackhawks play host to Central Division rival, the Colorado Avalanche tonight. The Avalanche started the season off strong as they were leading the Division, but they have since cooled off and trail the Blackhawks by nine points. The Blackhawks have won three of their last four, while the Avalanche have lost three of their last four. This is the second of five meetings between the teams. The Avalanche won the first meeting 5-1 in Colorado on November 19.
Here are some notes for tonight's game:
- The Avalanche seem to always play the Blackhawks well no matter how either team is playing prior to their matchup. The Avalanche were the team to end the Blackhawks point streak last season.
- Both teams have a lot of depth at the forward position. There are several players on each team who can stuff the stat sheet on any given night.
- Patrick Kane enters tonight on a 12-game point streak, recording 21 points over that stretch. This is Kane's second 12-game point streak of the season, the other being snapped at 12 games against Dallas on December 3rd.
- Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has scored a goal in four of his last five games. Johnson has six goals and nine assists on the season
- The Blackhawks are still without their two top goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin as both players are out with lower body injuries. The Avalanche will be without forward Alex Tanguay as he has missed almost two months with a knee injury.
- Avalanche forward Matt Duchene will play in his 300th career game tonight. Duchene is also only two goals shy of 100 for his career.
Battle Between The Pipes
Chicago Blackhawks: Antti Raanta (8-1-2, 2.20 GAA, .916 SV%)
Raanta has started every game since Corey Crawford went down with a lower body injury. He has yet to record a shutout on the season but has allowed more than two goals only once in 12 games. Raanta made his NHL debut against the Avalanche on November 19 when Crawford was pulled.
Colorado Avalanche: J.S. Giguere (7-2-0, 1.96 GAA, .935 SV%)
Giguere has been very impressive this season but is 0-2-0 in his last two games, allowing six goals. The 36 year old goaltender is very familiar with the Blackhawks. He has posted a record of 15-6-3 to go along with a 2.27 goals against average and a .927 save percentage in 26 career games against the Blackhawks.
Players To Watch
Chicago Blackhawks: Forward, Patrick Sharp: 18 G, 18 A, 36 P
Sharp is celebrating his 32nd birthday today. He has 12 points over his last eight games and has eight goals in the month of December. Sharp continues to be one of the most dangerous players in the Blackhawks offense.
Stastny is also celebrating his birthday today as he turns 28. He has six points over his last five games including a four point performance against Dallas on December 16. He seems to be getting back on track after going nine games without a point.
Chicago Blackhawks: Forward, Brandon Saad: 12 G, 16 A, 28 P
Saad has five goals and 10 points in the month of December. Only in his second season in the NHL, Saad is already developing into one of the team's better forwards. He has already passed his rookie totals in goals (10) and points (28) from last season. He is one assist from tying the 17 he registered last season.
MacKinnon ranks third amongst NHL rookies in points and leads all rookies in assists. He hasn't been sensational but he has shown flashes of why he was chosen number one overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. MacKinnon keeps on improving and it's only a matter of time before he becomes one of the league's best forwards.
Tonight's game starts at 7 pm. CT.
Let's Go Hawks!
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