The Chicago Blackhawks are 7-0-2 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season. Extending that success won't be easy.
The Blackhawks breezed past the Colorado Avalanche at home on Friday, winning 7-2. But the second half of the back-to-back involves a trip to St. Louis, the team that's chasing them in the Central Division. The Blues have already beaten the Blackhawks twice this season, including once at Scottrade Center, where St. Louis is 14-3-2.
Here's a look at all of the action scheduled for Saturday:
Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators -- Don't be surprised if there's some rancor between these teams; they're playing the back end of a home-and-home series that began with a 5-0 victory for the Bruins in Boston on Friday. Reilly Smith had two of Boston's four third-period goals as the Bruins blew the game open in the final 20 minutes. The Senators hope Craig Anderson, who's expected to be back in goal, will be able to build on a 5-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night
New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders -- The Devils were one of the NHL's best shootout teams during the first few years of the tiebreaker, but they're now 0-6 this season following a 2-1 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in which they again failed to score. Cory Schneider is expected to be in goal after Martin Brodeur played Friday. The Islanders are coming off a 3-0 road victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, but they may be without star center and captain John Tavares, who's day-to-day with a lower-body injury and didn't practice Friday.
Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Canadiens begin their annual post-Christmas swing through Florida against one of the NHL's best home teams. They finished their pre-holiday play a week ago with a 4-3 road victory against the Nashville Predators, a game in which they blew a 3-0 lead. The Lightning continue to win despite the absence of injured star Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay won its last five games before the break, owns the third-best record in the East and is 14-3-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers -- This could be "get well" night for the Red Wings, who hope to have captain Henrik Zetterberg and forward Justin Abdelkader back in the lineup. The Red Wings are probably glad to be away from Joe Louis Arena; they are 11-3-3 on the road but 6-10-6 in their own building. Florida is coming off a 6-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday and has dropped two in a row after five consecutive victories. The Panthers expect to have starting goaltender Tim Thomas (lower body) back in the lineup; he hasn't played since beating Detroit on Dec. 10.
Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues -- The Blackhawks have a seemingly comfortable seven-point lead over the second-place Blues in the Central Division, but the Blues have four games in hand. Both teams have a plus-43 goal differential; the Blackhawks added to theirs on Friday by routing the Colorado Avalanche 7-2 thanks to a hat trick by Patrick Sharp. The Blues are home after going 1-0-1 in Alberta, but they failed to hold a two-goal lead Monday night against the Calgary Flames and saw a 3-1 lead turn into a 4-3 shootout loss.
Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators -- L.A. is 14-3-3 since starting goaltender Jonathan Quick went down with a groin injury last month. Quick is on the trip and is practicing, but he's not ready to play yet. Martin Jones has grabbed most of the playing time in recent weeks, but he's coming off a 5-2 loss to Dallas that ended his career-starting 8-0-0 streak. Nashville lost 4-1 on the road to the Dallas Stars on Friday night. The Predators are 12-8-1 in their past 21 games against the Kings; the teams have split a pair this season.
Phoenix Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks -- The Coyotes will try to do something no other visiting team has been able to do this season: Win in regulation at Honda Center, where the Ducks are 13-0-2. Phoenix comes to Orange County after a 4-3 home shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Friday. The Ducks had a four-day Christmas break after sweeping a grueling four-game Eastern trip by beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Monday.
Philadelphia Flyers at Edmonton Oilers -- The Flyers have overcome a dreadful start to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division, but they're not going to stay there if they don't improve on a 6-9-4 road record. They haven't won at Rexall Place since 2001. The Oilers are home after a satisfying 2-0 road win against the Calgary Flames on Friday that saw Devan Dubnyk make 27 saves and Ryan Smyth score both goals.
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