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BLACKHWAKS (21-0-3) at AVALANCHE (8-10-4)
TV: NHLN-US, CSN-Chicago, ALTITUDE
Last 10: Chicago 10-0-0; Colorado 3-4-3
Season series: The Blackhawks won their first matchup against the Avalanche on Wednesday night at the United Center when Daniel Carcillo scored in the final minute for a 3-2 victory.
Big story: Colorado became the latest victim of the Windy City juggernaut, but the Avs gave Chicago a scare, holding a lead in the third period until Jonathan Toews' shorthanded goal tied the game. The Avalanche will get a second chance at ending the Blackhawks' historic start -- this time at the Pepsi Center.
Blackhawks: Another day, another hero for the Blackhawks. Of all the remarkable statistics that are part of Chicago's historic start, the most remarkable might be that 13 different players have contributed game-winning goals for the Blackhawks in their first 24 games. Carcillo became the latest unlikely hero when he backhanded the puck past Semyon Varlamov with 49.3 seconds left for his first goal of the season and the Blackhawks' franchise-record 11th win in a row.
Throughout the entire 24-game stretch, the Blackhawks have gotten a lift from the rebuilt depth they lost when salary-cap problems forced them to trade several key parts of their 2010 Stanley Cup championship team. That depth is about to be tested in a big way -- lost in the excitement of Wednesday night's win were injuries to Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw. Marian Hossa also was pulled from the lineup during pregame warmups.
Avalanche: Colorado's fresh legs allowed the Avalanche to skate with the League's best team all night Wednesday, but the solid performance masks two weeks of particularly tough sledding for the Avs. Colorado has just one win in its last seven games, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, came during the team's only home game over that stretch.
While those struggles on the road, where Colorado is just 2-8-3 on the season, have left the Avs near the bottom of the Western Conference, they are far from out of the hunt for a playoff spot. Colorado has actually won three in a row at home, and with the Avs playing six of their next seven games in Denver, the opportunity to climb into the top eight could lie during this pivotal stretch.
Who's hot: Chicago's Viktor Stalberg has a goal and four assists in the past four games. … PA Parenteau leads Colorado with 20 points in 22 games, and he's been the Avalanche's sharpest offensive weapon of late, tallying five points in his past four games.
Injury report: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday he expects Hossa to play Friday, though he is still questionable with an upper-body injury. Shaw (head injury) and Steve Montador (concussion) are also questionable, while Sharp is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. To help patch the banged-up forward corps, Chicago recalled Brandon Bollig from its AHL affiliate in Rockford after assigning him there 24 hours earlier. … Milan Hejduk (torso injury) is doubtful for Colorado.
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