Central Division race heats up tonight on CSN

Central Division race heats up tonight on CSN
March 12, 2014, 8:00 am
Nina Falcone

The Blackhawks and Avalanche will meet for their fifth and final time in the regular season tonight in Colorado. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 8:00 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

After finishing the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign dead last in the Western Conference with just 39 points, the Avalanche have put on a strong, successful performance this season under head coach Patrick Roy. Tonight they'll look to claim second in the Central Division as they take on the Blackhawks.

The Avalanche (42-18-5) are coming into tonight's matchup after winning five of their last six games, including a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks just eight days ago. Now they sit just one point behind the defending champions in the standings.

[MORE: Blackhawks looking to snap out of funk against Avalanche]

The Blackhawks have lost three of their previous four games against Colorado. Now both of these teams will go head-to-head as the Western Conference race continues to heat up throughout the final weeks of the regular season. 

“(The Avalanche) have a good rush game; it’s a quick, young team that likes to play with speed. The biggest thing is playing a full 60 and keeping it simple out there,” Brandon Saad told reporters on Tuesday. “When we have turnovers, they go the other way and they usually bury the puck. We just need to keep it simple out there.”

Point leaders

Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (28G, 38A), Patrick Sharp (29G, 34A), Jonathan Toews (25G, 37A), *Marian Hossa (24G, 26A), Duncan Keith (3G, 47A)

*The Blackhawks are still without Hossa, who continues to recover from an upper-body injury.

[RELATED: Blackhawks' Saad shining bright regardless of line changes]

Avalanche: Matt Duchene (21G, 39A), Gabriel Landeskog (19G, 33A), Ryan O'Reilly (24G, 27A), Nathan MacKinnon (22G, 29A), *Paul Stastny (20G, 27A)

*The Avs may be without Stastny tonight as he continues to rehab a back injury.

Goaltender matchup

The Blackhawks announced Tuesday that Antti Raanta will get the start against Colorado; this will be his first start since Jan. 28. Raanta's gone 12-2-3 with a .904 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average this season.

Although the Avalanche have yet to announce their starting netminder, it's likely Semyon Varlamov will be between the pipes. Varlamov's recorded a .925 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average in 51 games this season.

Keep up with the latest news by staying locked into the Blackhawks Pulse, and have your voice heard by using #HawksTalk on Twitter.