(AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a stirring start, putting them on the brink of their best in 40 years.
The St. Louis Blues, though, have a chance to win their first three games for the first time in nearly two decades.
A healthy and rejuvenated Marian Hossa looks to spur the Blackhawks in their home opener Tuesday night against the reigning Central Division champions.
Chicago (2-0-0) is in search of its best start to a season since beginning 4-0-0 in 1972-73, while the Blues (2-0-0) haven’t started with three straight wins since 1993-94.
The Blackhawks began this season in impressive fashion Saturday, scoring the first four goals in a 5-2 win at Los Angeles to spoil the Stanley Cup champions’ banner-raising celebration. They followed that up a day later by beating Phoenix 6-4 in a rematch of their opening-round playoff series, won by the Coyotes in six games.
Hossa may have found some extra motivation in Arizona after suffering a concussion on a vicious hit by Phoenix’s Raffi Torres in Game 3. The star right wing spent the lockout recovering, and he’s quickly returned to form with two goals in each of the first two games, including the decisive tally 14 seconds into the third period Sunday.
“I felt good off the ice biking and doing the strength, but when I got on the ice it was a little different,” Hossa told his team’s official website. “The brain had to adjust to so many movements, so many players, such a fast pace … when I was doing it I didn’t feel myself. I’m glad I had time to be prepared. By (January), my head was clear and I wasn’t afraid to go into the corners.”
St. Louis has struggled to slow down Hossa. He has 10 goals and seven assists in 17 meetings over his first three seasons with Chicago, including six goals in eight matchups at the United Center.
The Blackhawks have won seven straight at home versus the Blues, but St. Louis arrives in Chicago with confidence after beating Detroit 6-0 at home Saturday and claiming a 4-3 shootout win at Nashville on Monday.
“It’s our first road game of the year, we were down by a goal and end up tying it up and winning,” center Jaden Schwartz said. “We had a little adversity there, and we came through so I think we can build on that.”
Vladimir Tarasenko is looking to continue a brilliant start to his NHL career after getting one goal and two assists against the Predators, setting up Alex Pietrangelo’s third-period tally that eventually forced overtime and the shootout. The 21-year-old right wing found the net twice against the Red Wings in his NHL debut.
“Vladi’s playing really, really well right now,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We’ve got a couple lines really playing well right now.”
Brian Elliott is expected to be in net after replacing an ineffective Jaroslav Halak in the second period Monday and stopping all 13 shots he faced – not to mention both shootout attempts.
Elliott went 23-10-4 while setting franchise records with a 1.56 goals-against average and nine shutouts last season. He’s 1-2-1 with a 2.21 GAA in four meetings with the Blackhawks, losing both visits to Chicago despite a 1.93 GAA.
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