BLACKHAWKS (23-2-3) at AVALANCHE (10-13-4)
TV: CSN-CH, ALT2
Last 10: Chicago 8-2-0; Colorado 3-5-2
Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The teams split a home-and-home series earlier this month. The Blackhawks won 3-2 in Chicago on March 6 thanks to a Daniel Carcillo goal with 49.3 seconds left in regulation, but two nights later the Avalanche routed them 6-2 in Colorado to deal the Hawks their first regulation loss of the season after a 21-0-3 start. Matt Duchene had a four-point night and has two goals and three assists in the first two matchups.
Big story: Perhaps another date with the NHL-leading Blackhawks will bring out the best in the Avalanche, who have dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference standings with their poor play of late.
Blackhawks: Any concern in the Windy City after the loss to Colorado was followed up by another regulation defeat at the hands of Edmonton has probably dissipated after Chicago got past Columbus in a shootout and then demolished Dallas on Saturday by an 8-1 final. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa each scored twice, and Patrick Kane capped the offensive outburst with a highlight-reel goal off a backhander.
"A great effort all-around by the team, a game that we probably needed, since we've been in so many close games, to get some guys some confidence scoring some goals," Kane said. "It was good to see a lot of guys step up."
Avalanche: The Pepsi Center rocked the night Colorado ended Chicago's run, and it looked like it might be the turning point in the Avalanche's season when they picked up an overtime win in their next game against the Sharks. Instead, the Avs have lost three in a row, including back-to-back contests against the Northwest Division-rival Wild. The home-and-home sweep was completed Saturday afternoon with a 6-4 loss in which Jean-Sebastien Giguere was pulled after giving up four goals in the first period and the Avs couldn't quite fight all the way back.
"It's too deep a hole to dig ourselves," said Duchene, who set up goals by PA Parenteau and Gabriel Landeskog. "Right now it just feels like we're afraid to make mistakes. It feels like we're tight. We're not having fun right now. You don't have fun when you lose. It sounds cheesy, but when you bring the fun back it brings the confidence back and you can start playing better hockey. Confidence is everything right now, and we don't have it."
Who's hot: Kane has three goals and four assists during a three-game points streak for the Blackhawks. Johnny Oduya went the first 26 games of the season without a goal, but has lit the lamp in two straight. … Duchene has five goals and six assists over the past six games for the Avalanche. Parenteau has four goals and nine assists over the past nine games. Landeskog has goals in consecutive games.
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