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Blackhawks chase second road win of the season in New Jersey

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks


When the Blackhawks and Devils clash on Friday in the first of two meetings between the two clubs within a week, Chicago will be looking for just their second road win of the season. They'll also be trying to shake off a disappointing 6-5 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, a game they led 5-2 after 20 minutes. New Jersey is one of the lowest event teams in the league (see By the Numbers), meaning they do not take or allow shot attempts with high frequency, so the Blackhawks will need to push the pace to create scoring chances and get the home team out of their comfort zone. The Devils were last in action on Tuesday, when they dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Islanders. Chicago assigned Ryan Hartman to Rockford on Thursday morning, but Marian Hossa is still out of the lineup and will miss his third game.


The Devils aren't a high-scoring team, averaging just 2.25 goals per game, but most of their offense has come from the top line of Adam Henrique, Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak. Henrique paces the club with six goals, while Cammalleri leads skaters with eight assists and 11 points; Stempniak has eight points and shares third. The trio also leads New Jersey forwards in possession, controlling 53-54 percent of even-strength shot attempts when they're on the ice. If the Blackhawks can keep the Henrique line quiet, they'll have a good chance of shutting down the Devils offense on Friday.


Brent Seabrook added to his impressive point totals on Wednesday with a two-point outing (1G, 1A) against the Blues. He also extended his point streak to seven games dating back to Oct. 22 (3G, 7G), tying a career mark. The 30-year-old is already halfway to matching his goal total from last year, and his 11 points share fourth among NHL blueliners as of Thursday. Part of his recent offensive push has come on the power play, where his booming shot is always a threat from the point or high slot. Seabrook has taken over quarterbacking duties on the first unit in the absence of Duncan Keith, and he has three points in the last four games with the man advantage.


Devils goaltender Cory Schneider has been a consistent presence since arriving via a 2013 trade. In 124 starts for New Jersey, the 29-year-old has posted a stellar .923 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average with eight shutouts, despite a record of 48-49-22. Last season he started 68 games, third behind Braden Holtby and Jonathan Quick among NHL netminders, a testament to his durability and the adjustments he made in his first full season as a starter. Schneider is off to a good start in 2015-16 with six wins in 10 starts, and in his last three appearances he's stopped 83 of 88 shots (.943). He's been solid at even strength, but the Blackhawks can take advantage on the penalty kill, where Schneider and the Devils have had a sluggish start, allowing nine on 37 tries so far this season (75.7%).


Two Blackhawks notched their first goals of the season in Wednesday's contest: Marko Dano, in his second game with the team, opened the scoring in what would turn out to be a seven-goal first period. After the Blues tied it up, Andrew Shaw was awarded a penalty shot while driving to the net, and he found the back of the net with his second career attempt, marking his first tally of the season. Shaw later added a power-play assist for his first multi-point outing of the year. On Friday, the Blackhawks will need their depth scoring to continue making a difference against the defensively oriented Devils.

A quick trip to New Jersey might be glossed over in the larger scheme of the season, but the Blackhawks need these two points, not only to keep pace with the relentless pace of the Central Division, but also to reestablish their road game. They haven't won away from the United Center in nearly a month, and with the Circus Trip looming, getting their bearings on the road will be crucial on Friday. If Corey Crawford starts, he'll be looking for a rebound performance, but the players in front of him will also need to cut down on the mistakes in defensive coverage that led to the squandered lead against the Blues. The Devils don't give up much at even strength, so Chicago may need to rely on their special teams to provide the edge.

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