The Chicago Blackhawks have run hot or cold against the Colorado Avalanche. They’ve either been pummeled or have inflicted that same on the Avs; there’s really been no in between.
And speaking of hot, that’s what the Avs have been lately. Entering tonight’s game, the Avalanche has gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Not a bad run for a team with its share of injuries, including P.A. Parenteau (knee), Paul Stastny (leg) and Alex Tanguay (knee).
Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks, while Semyon Varlamov gets the nod for the Avalanche. With Stastny out, Colorado coach Patrick Roy said he’ll play seven defensemen tonight.
Injuries or no, Colorado always presents a formidable challenge. So while we ponder the odds of another lopsided outcome, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Avs-Blackhawks game.
[RELATED: Blackhawks host Avalanche tonight on CSN]
1. Build off of Sunday’s game. The Blackawks’ “slump” ended with Sunday’s 5-3 victory over Edmonton Oilers, in which they looked more like themselves. That jump they lacked early was back, as was some chemistry in all their lines, not just the top one. The Blackhawks want to carry that start, that chemistry and that offense into tonight’s game against a squad that’s just as speedy as they are.
2. Statsny’s out, but watch out for others. Stastny’s done well against the Blackhawks (21 points in 25 career games), and there’s no doubt the Avs will miss him tonight. But the Avs have enough other offensive weapons that will keep the Blackhawks on their toes. Nathan MacKinnon has five goals in his last five contests, and captain Gabriel Landeskog has points in nine of his last 10 games (four goals, eight assists). One threat is gone; others remain.
3. Can Bickell break through? Bryan Bickell hit pipe with his wicked wrister against Montreal on Saturday. Ditto against Edmonton on Sunday night. Is he going to break out of his funk tonight? Even if he doesn’t score, Bickell needs to be physically engaged in a game like this.
4. Keep Varlamov busy. Varlamov has been strong all season and especially good as of late, going 5-0-2 in his last seven games. The mantra never changes, no matter the goalie, but the Blackhawks definitely want to get to this guy with traffic and disruption as much as possible.
5. Our pick to click tonight is Andrew Shaw. He was a motivated player last game, when he played second-line center between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane. He’s got his confidence back, and he’s been entrusted with a new gig. That should lead to good things tonight.