The Colorado Avalanche will look to sweep a home-and-home set against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday after taking the first game 5-2 in Chicago on Friday.
Nathan McKinnon scored less than one minute into the game and added three assists to record his third four-point game (one goal, three assists) of the season. J.T. Compher also tied his career high with a three-point (one goal, two assists) outing.
Despite being outshot 36-23, Colorado stormed out to a 3-1 lead in the first period with two more goals from defensemen Ryan Graves and Cale Makar. Compher scored in the second period, as did Valeri Nishushkin to pad the lead to 5-1. Pavel Francouz saved 34 of 36 shots for his fifth win of the season.
Zach Smith and Patrick Kane tallied for Chicago while goaltender Corey Crawford allowed five goals on 23 shots.
The second iteration of Avs-Blackhawks starts in Denver on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. MT.
Avalanche vs. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Pepsi Center | Denver, Colo.
Avs left wing J.T. Compher is from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois…Colorado center T.J. Tynan was born in nearby Orland Park, Illinois…Chicago assistant coach Marc Crawford was the head coach of the Avalanche/Nordiques from 1994-95 to 1997-98 and won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996.
The Avalanche is 69-54-17 all-time against the Blackhawks, with a 53-31-11 advantage since moving to Denver in 1995. The teams met in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 1996 and 1997, and the Avs prevailed both times in six games, winning the Stanley Cup in 1996.
Last season, the Avs finished 2-1-2 in the five-game series with Chicago, including going 1-0-1 in a back-to-back, home-and-home set in March. Colorado won the first matchup of this campaign 5-2 on Friday at the Blackhawks. The teams will also face each other twice in a four-day span in mid-December to wrap up the season series.
Philipp Grubauer is expected to be in net for the second game in the home-and-home set after Pavel Francouz made 34 saves on Friday… Mikko Rantanen, who's missed 16 games (lower-body), is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday… Sheldon Dries made his season debut on Friday, skating just over 10 minutes.
Mikko Rantanen is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. He has missed 16 games since he suffered a lower-body injury on Oct. 21… Erik Johnson will miss both games against the Blackhawks with a lower-body injury… Andre Burakovsky is day-to-day with an upper-body injury… Matt Calvert (head) and Gabriel Landeskog (lower body) have both began skating on their own in non-contact jerseys… Colin Wilson remains out with a lower-body injury.
SCOUTING THE BLACKHAWKS
Chicago (10-10-5) sits in seventh in the Central Division and is 5-3-2 in its last 10 outings and has a 3-4-3 mark while on the road this year. The Blackhawks are converting on 13.5 percent of their power plays and killing off 80.8 percent of the man advantages the other way.
The first period has shown to be Chicago's best, with the club owning a plus-7 goal differential in the frame, fourth best in the league this year.
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Robin Lehner
Robin Lehner will likely start on Saturday after Corey Crawford held down the net for Chicago on Friday. Lehner's .938 save percentage is the best in the NHL.
He's 4-4-0 in his career against the Avalanche, with a .911-save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average. Lehner won in his last start against Colorado, as a member of the New York Islanders last year when he stopped 25 of 28 shots in a 4-3 overtime win at Barclays Center on Feb. 9, 2019.
With a goal and three assists on Saturday, Nathan MacKinnon turned his fourth game with at least three points this season, tied for the seventh-most for any player.
Friday's 5-2 win marked the eighth time the Avs have scored at least five goals in a game, tying them for the third-most five-goal games in the NHL.
The Avalanche has scored 30 goals in the first period, the second-most of any team in the NHL.
The Avalanche is 7-3-1 at home this season… Colorado is 1-2-0 in the second half of back-to-back sets so far this year… Mikko Rantanen has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 11 career games versus Chicago… After Saturday, the Avs and Blackhawks meet again on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21 to close out the four-game set.