Blackhawks visit Blues, chasing fifth straight
Monday, 12.27.2010 / 5:05 PMBLACKHAWKS (20-14-3) at BLUES (18-12-5)
TV: CSN-CH (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Chicago 6-3-1; St. Louis 6-3-1
Fourth of six meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. The home team has captured each of the first three, most recently Chicago's 7-5 win on Nov. 30 as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each scored twice.
He still has to give it a test at Tuesday's morning skate, but all indications are that Kane will return to the Blackhawks' lineup for the first time since he suffered a lower-body injury crashing into the boards Dec. 5 against the Flames. Kane termed it "pretty probable" that he would play and coach Joel Quenneville said his status was "likely." Kane has 11 goals and 27 points in 28 games this season.
Even without their 22-year-old star, Chicago has been rolling of late. The Blackhawks have won four in a row, all at the United Center, and now head to St. Louis hoping to continue their streak. If Kane returns it would be the second game in a row in which they got a key cog back in the lineup -- Marian Hossa had a pair of assists in a 4-1 win Sunday over the Blue Jackets after missing 10 games with his own lower-body injury. Patrick Sharp scored twice and Marty Turco made 26 saves for his first victory since Nov. 17.
"He was a big part of the win tonight," Quenneville said. "It was a very important game for us for a lot of reasons, but it was good to see Marty get a win.
In his first season with St. Louis, goalie Jaroslav Halak
has run hot and cold. He was most certainly at the top of his game Sunday night against Nashville, however. Reminding fans of the player who at times almost single-handedly willed Montreal to the conference finals last season, Halak stopped all 32 shots he faced in leading the Blues to a 2-0 victory. His counterpart, Pekka Rinne, was solid for the Predators, but David Backes
solved him for one goal and scored a second into an empty net.
"Obviously, I like these kind of games," Halak said. "I think everyone likes more shots than few shots."
Bryan Bickell has 4 goals and 3 assists during a six-game points streak for the Blackhawks. Dave Bolland has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak, while Sharp's 20 goals for the season lead the team and are third in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. ... Backes' two-goal game for the Blues against the Predators followed a two-assist effort against the Red Wings.
Kane appears to be the only question mark for Chicago, as goalie Corey Crawford has recovered sufficiently enough from the flu for Hannu Toivonen to be sent back to AHL Rockford. ... St. Louis forwards David Perron
(concussion), TJ Oshie
(ankle), Andy McDonald
(concussion) and Dave Scatchard
(lower body) are on injured reserve.
Jack Skille had an opportunity to become the first Blackhawks player to convert a penalty shot at the United Center but was stopped Sunday by Mathieu Garon. The last time a Blackhawk scored on a penalty shot at home was Troy Murray at the old Chicago Stadium on Dec. 30, 1987 against the Minnesota North Stars.
St. Louis could tie Chicago in the standings with a regulation win Tuesday, and the Blues also hold two games in hand.
"It's a divisional matchup, it's a rivalry game, and it's a game that we know will have extra energy and extra intensity," coach Davis Payne told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "These ones are always fun and easy to get up for and I'm sure our group will be ready."