Streaking Blackhawks Battle Blues
(WSCR) – The Chicago Blackhawks have been playing some of their best hockey of the season and are riding a one of their longest winning streaks of the season. Now they’ll take that streak on the road to play the St. Louis Blues, and could likely have Patrick Kane back in the lineup.
The Blackhawks, though, will face a St. Louis Blues team that’s gotten off to a strong start on its latest homestand.
With Kane expected to return from an ankle injury, Chicago will try to earn a season-high fifth consecutive win Tuesday night by denying St. Louis its fourth victory in a row and third straight at home.
Chicago (20-14-3) dropped the opener of a season-high five-game stay at home to Colorado on Dec. 15, but outscored its opponents 15-5 while winning the next four.
Starting goaltender Corey Crawford’s illness didn’t derail the Blackhawks’ recent defensive resurgence. Marty Turco, who previously had a 3.06 goals-against average, stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 win over Columbus on Sunday night, his first victory since Nov. 17.
“We’ve been playing a stronger team game the last four, five games,” said forward Patrick Sharp, who scored twice during a three-goal third period. “It’s resulted in not a lot of chances against. The guys have really stepped up.”
That same night, St. Louis (18-12-5) got its own resurgent effort from goaltender Jaroslav Halak in a 2-0 victory over Nashville. Halak, who made 32 saves, was 1-3-0 with a 3.54 GAA in his previous four starts.
“Obviously, I like these kind of games,” said Halak, who has a 2.34 GAA and four shutouts in his first season in St. Louis. “I think everyone likes more shots than few shots.”
David Backes scored twice after registering two assists in a 4-3 win over Detroit on Thursday night, the opener of the team’s season-high five-game homestand. The Blues have won three straight overall, including last Tuesday’s 4-2 win at Atlanta.
The Blackhawks return to the road after dropping back-to-back road games for the first time this season Dec. 11 and 13 at San Jose and Colorado. The Blues, meanwhile, are 12-4-2 in St. Louis and are seeking their third straight win there over Chicago.
The Blackhawks, though, have won two of three meetings this season and recorded a 7-5 victory in the most recent matchup Nov. 30. Jonathan Toews and Kane each had two goals and an assist in that win.
After missing the past eight games, Kane appears ready to return. The winger, still third on the team with 11 goals and 27 points, has three goals and nine assists in his last 10 games against the Blues.
“I’m going to make the trip with the team and see how I feel,” Kane told the Blackhawks’ official website. “I’m really happy with (how the ankle has felt) the last couple days. Once you get into a game it’s a little bit different, but for now I’m pretty happy with it.”
Chicago has already gotten one boost this week. Marian Hossa played Sunday for the first time since Nov. 27 and contributed two assists.
Turco will likely start again Tuesday, although he’s 3-7-1 with a 3.34 GAA in his last 11 starts against St. Louis.
Halak is 1-0-1 with a 2.42 GAA in his two games versus Chicago – both this season – but might want to keep his eyes on Sharp, who has scored a team-best three times this season against the Blues. The center also leads the Blackhawks with five points (three goals, two assists) during their win streak.
Backes, who has 11 points in his past nine games, has three goals and nine assists in his last eight matchups with Chicago.
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