Preview: Avalanche at Blackhawks
With the return of All-Star right wing Mikko Rantanen imminent, the Colorado Avalanche visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home set. Rantanen has missed the last 15 games with an ankle injury but Colorado - also without captain Gabriel Landeskog - has gone 7-7-1 without two of its top three scorers after an impressive 4-1 victory over Edmonton on Wednesday.
Colorado turned in one of its best defensive performances of the season Wednesday in keeping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl - the league leaders in points - off the scoresheet and ending McDavid's 11-game point streak. "We just need to keep weathering the storm until we get healthy,'' Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon told reporters. "We know we're a heck of a team, we started the season (7-0-1) for a reason. We have to play a little more defensively and patient, I think." Chicago snapped a three-game slide (0-2-1) with a 3-0 victory over Dallas on Tuesday behind 32 saves by Corey Crawford. "It was a good win against a really good team,'' Crawford told reporters after recording his 26th career shutout. "We've just got to build off that, I think."
TV: 4 p.m. ET, NBCS Chicago, Altitude (Colorado)
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (14-8-2): MacKinnon has scored in the last two games, raising his club-high totals to 15 goals and 35 points with nine during a five-game point streak. Right wing Logan O'Connor scored his first career goal Wednesday in his ninth contest, telling reporters: "That's a great feeling. I mean, that's something you sort of dream of your whole life, so to have that happen tonight and get the win on top of that, it was definitely nice." Rookie defenseman Cale Makar (seven goals, 25 points, plus-8) hasn't recorded a point in back-to-back games for only the second time this season.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (10-9-5): Patrick Kane (club highs of 12 goals, 31 points) has recorded nine goals and 13 assists during his 13-game point streak after scoring for the first time in four contests Tuesday. Alex DeBrincat hasn't scored in nine games and has five goals in 24 contests after scoring 41 last season and 28 during his rookie 2017-18 campaign. Dylan Strome (five goals, 17 points, team-best plus-10) missed Tuesday's game with a concussion and was replaced by Matthew Highmore, who was recalled from AHL Rockford to make his NHL debut.
1. MacKinnon's 120 shots are second in the league to Washington's Alex Ovechkin (124).
2. Colorado is 3-for-22 on the power play in its last six games while Chicago is 3-for-25 in its past nine contests.
3. The clubs, who reconvene Saturday in Denver, split a home-in-home March 23 and 24 to conclude their five-game 2018-19 season series with the Avalanche winning the front end in the Mile High City.
PREDICTION: Avalanche 3, Blackhawks 2