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Blackhawks take on inconsistent Bruins on Friday

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

The Blackhawks will close out their annual Father-Son Road Trip in Boston on Friday, where the team will face the Bruins for the first time this season before returning home for a three-game homestand. Chicago is coming off a back-and-forth affair in Denver, a 6-4 win that featured a third-period comeback surge and some outstanding performances by the team's rookies.

Head Coach Joel Quenneville's new-look third line paid off dividends, as Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero and Marian Hossa combined for 4 of the Blackhawks' 6 goals, two each by the younger duo. Hinostroza recorded both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the third period on Tuesday with his fifth and sixth tallies of the season, and logged a game-high five shots on goal. Kero also scored twice, including an empty-netter to put the game out of reach, and added a helper to establish a career best. He now has five points over his last five games. Hossa, the veteran presence on that line, contributed three helpers to reach 600 for his career, becoming one of seven active skaters to hit the mark; he ranks sixth among them.

The Blackhawks' fourth line also got on the scoresheet against Colorado, with Nick Schmaltz opening the scoring in his second game back from a stint down in the American Hockey League; he and Dennis Rasmussen also picked up assists on a tally by Brent Seabrook later in the first period.

Getting production from the bottom two lines was exactly what Quenneville was hoping to get, and he said after the game, "It was a fun night for them, and certainly a big third period and great comeback for us."

They'll need another strong performance throughout the lineup on Friday against Boston, a team that's comfortably in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, but also suffering from some inconsistencies lately. The Bruins haven't been able to string together consecutive wins since the start of 2017, going 3-4-2 over those nine tilts. The team has scored four or more goals in four of those games, but has given up four or more goals in four outings as well. They did both on Wednesday in a 6-5 shootout loss to Detroit after relinquishing leads of 4-1 and 5-4, a result that left Head Coach Claude Julien "at a loss for words."

Like the Blackhawks, the Bruins have a heavy-hitting top six, headlined by the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and the trio is responsible for a large chunk of the team's offensive production this month. Bergeron, a three-time Selke Trophy winner and one of the best two-way forwards in the league, only has 21 points in 45 games so far this season, but he did contribute a goal and two helpers on Wednesday and now has nine points (3G, 6A) over his last eight contests.

Marchand, who was named to the NHL All-Star Game for the first time in his career, picked up two assists against Detroit, giving him 14 points (7G, 7A) over his last eight games, a total that includes a five-point outing on Jan. 14 against Philadelphia. And Pastrnak, the youngest member of the line at age 20, has seven helpers in his last eight tilts, although he has been held without a point in two straight games. The Czech native has enjoyed a breakout season, already posting a career-best 33 points in 41 games in his third NHL campaign.

A glance at goaltender Tuukka Rask's numbers reveals a symptom of the Bruins' recent inconsistencies, as he's been mostly underwhelming, posting a .875 save percentage or lower five times in his last eight starts. He does have one shutout, a 25-save effort at Florida on Jan. 7, but the Bruins need their veteran starter to batten down the hatches as the team tries to steady the ship. Rask's overall numbers this season are solid, however, as he ranks fourth with a 2.11 goals-against average and shares 11th with a .919 SV% in 37 starts.

Scott Darling will be in net for the Blackhawks, as Quenneville wants to get everyone playing on the Father-Son trip; Darling made a career-best 42 saves against the Bruins on April 3 last season, and has a 2-1-0 record in three career starts against Boston.

NOTABLE ABSENCES
CHI: Marcus Kruger (hand)
BOS: Matt Beleskey (knee), Colin Miller (lower body), Kevan Miller (concussion)

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