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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.

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Blackhawks face road test against Ovechkin, Capitals

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

After completing a four-game homestand sweep, the Blackhawks will try to take their winning ways on the road, with three of their next four contests away from the United Center. Their first test will be against the surging Washington Capitals, who have won seven consecutive outings, including a confident 5-2 result over division rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday to lift the team into second place in the Metropolitan, one point behind Columbus. With Washington and Chicago tied for second in the overall league rankings (the Capitals do have three games in hand), Friday's tilt should be a high-paced battle between heavyweights from opposing conferences.

The Blackhawks were last in action on Tuesday, when they outlasted the Detroit Red Wings in an end-to-end battle that ended 4-3 in overtime, in which every single skater logged at least one shot on goal. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time this has happened in a regular-season game since March 1997. The 43-36 shot count wasn't exactly flattering to the Blackhawks defense, and they'll need to tighten up against a Washington roster that boasts plenty of goal-scoring potential.

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Hossa returns as Chicago begins homestand vs. Buffalo

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

After ringing in the New Year on the road, the Blackhawks return to the United Center for a four-game homestand, which kicks off with a rare back-to-back over the next two nights. Thursday's opponent will be the Buffalo Sabres, who began 2017 with a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday, just the second win in their last eight outings. With 36 points in the standings, Buffalo shares the worst record in the Eastern Conference, and they're looking at a lottery draft pick for the fifth consecutive year, which wasn't the plan coming into this season.

The Blackhawks are looking to refocus after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2, their fifth loss in six games, a trend that has allowed Minnesota to close the gap in the Central Division to just one point with four games in hand. Injuries to key players have limited Chicago's ability to execute their preferred puck possession style of play over this last stretch. They've scored just eight goals in the last five games, while often ending up on the wrong side of the shot differential.

While Corey Crawford has been strong in net since returning from injury, and special teams have been effective, the Blackhawks know they'll have to go back to generating scoring chances and applying pressure to opponents at even strength in order to hold off the likes of the Wild and the Blues in the back half of the season.

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Blackhawks look to tighten defense on road trip

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Winnipeg closed out the Blackhawks' home slate for the 2016 calendar, and now the team will embark on a three-game road trip that culminates in the 2017 Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The first stop on their road trip, however, is Nashville, where they'll take on a Predators team that has experienced some ups and downs in December, posting a 4-5-3 record this month. They've dropped their last two, including a 3-2 overtime defeat to Minnesota on Tuesday, and sit in sixth place in the Central Division, two points out of a wild card spot in the West.

The two teams have faced off twice this season, with the Blackhawks dropping a 3-2 result in Nashville on Oct. 14 before returning home the next night to win 5-3.

Head Coach Joel Quenneville made just one switch to his forward lines on Thursday, sliding rookie Tyler Motte to the top line to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Ryan Hartman, while Vinnie Hinostroza replaces him on the fourth unit. But it's the defensive pairs that will likely be shaken up on Thursday after allowing 34 shots by the Jets.

"Probably one of our weakest areas tonight, whether it was defending or getting involved in the attack or making plays that keep possession," Quenneville said. "It wasn't a great night across the board."

Tuesday marked the fourth consecutive game and sixth time in the last seventh games that the team has allowed 30 or more shots on goal. Overall, the Blackhawks have averaged 31.1 shots allowed this season, compared to 29.1 shots for, a trend that Chicago certainly would like to reverse as the season approaches its halfway point.

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Crawford returns to action for Blackhawks against Avs

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

The Blackhawks will contest their final game before a three-day holiday break on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche. Chicago had a five-game win streak snapped on Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to Ottawa. Artemi Panarin tallied his sixth power-play goal of the season to extend his point streak to six games, matching a career long, but the penalty kill allowed two goals and the team wasn't able to make late pressure count; Marcus Kruger failed to convert a third-period penalty shot earned on a shorthanded opportunity. The regulation loss was just the third the team has suffered this season, as they continue to share the conference lead with 13 victories at home.

Despite the loss, the Blackhawks got a boost after the game as Corey Crawford was activated from IR, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville confirmed on Thursday that he would get the start on Friday against the Avs.

Video: Coach Q on Crawford, Kero

Colorado entered their tilt against Toronto on Thursday on a four-game losing streak, and things went from bad to worse as the team with the fewest points in the league allowed three goals in the first period in an eventual 6-0 loss, dropping them to 11-20-1 on the season.

The Avs rank dead-last in team offense and defense, while also sitting in the bottom third of the NHL in special team play; they've scored just one power-play goal in the last five games, despite earning 23 chances. Plus, the long-term loss of defenseman Erik Johnson to a leg injury hasn't helped a defensive unit that has had problems keeping the puck out of their own end and thus their own net. Starting netminder Semyon Varlamov was yanked from Thursday's loss in the second period, meaning Head Coach Jared Bednar, who is in his first year as an NHL bench boss, could go back to him on Friday.

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Blackhawks seek sixth straight win against Senators

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

With a 4-1 win over San Jose on Sunday, the Blackhawks extended their win streak to five games, and with the next three games at home, they're hoping to put more space between them and their Central Division competitors. Their next opponents will be the Ottawa Senators, who haven't won at the United Center since 2001.

New Sens head coach Guy Boucher has his team solidly in a playoff position, albeit in an underwhelming Atlantic Division where only one team (Montreal) has a positive goal differential. Ottawa's 4-4-2 record over the last 10 games reflects some of the squad's inconsistencies, from an ugly 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh earlier this month to more convincing outings in their last two games, both wins. On Sunday, Ottawa got three-point efforts from forwards Mark Stone and Zack Smith in a 6-2 win over the Islanders; Stone now has six points (1G, 5A) over his last three games, second on the team.

The Senators will also get forward Mike Hoffman back from a two-game suspension on Tuesday; the 27-year-old led Ottawa with three points in two outings against the Blackhawks last season.

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Blackhawks end road trip with Winter Classic preview

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

After securing a pair of victories in the Big Apple, the Blackhawks will try for the road sweep on Saturday when they face the Blues in St. Louis. It will be the last time the two teams play each other ahead of their Winter Classic clash on Jan. 2 at Busch Stadium. Chicago and St. Louis have traded wins in their first two meetings of the season; the Blues won 5-2 in the season opener on Oct. 12, while the Blackhawks notched a 2-1 overtime victory on Nov. 9.

St. Louis has lost just once in regulation at Scottrade Center all season and leads the Western Conference with 13 home victories. The Blues recovered from a 1-3-0 road trip with a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Thursday, coming back from a two-goal deficit, and sit in third place in the Central Division, six points behind Chicago, who returned to the top of the league table with their 5-4 win over the Islanders.

The Blackhawks' five goals were the most they've scored since Nov. 1, and the goal outburst was predicated upon a highly effective power play that produced three goals. Scott Darling gave up two goals in the opening 4 minutes of the game, but held on for a 28-save win, his fourth in five starts.

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Blackhawks take on Tavares-led Islanders in Brooklyn

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

The Blackhawks continue their three-game road trip with a tilt against the New York Islanders on Thursday. Chicago got 33 saves from Scott Darling on Tuesday in another tightly contested game against the Rangers, a 2-1 victory for the visitors. With his performance, Darling has now allowed just three goals over his last four starts, posting a .974 save percentage and 3-0-1 record over that span.

"He's absolutely amazing," Artem Anisimov said about Darling's performances after the game. With a back-to-back on the schedule this upcoming weekend, Thursday's matchup could be the seventh consecutive start for the 27-year-old, although Head Coach Joel Quenneville hasn't indicated his starter with the team having a day off on Wednesday.

The Islanders are looking to snap out of a two-game losing streak after dropping a 4-2 result to Washington on Tuesday. After advancing to the second round of the playoffs last spring, New York has struggled mightily the first two months of this season and find themselves in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Free-agent signing Andrew Ladd hasn't panned out, posting just six points in 28 games, while the goaltending hasn't been a strong point either. However, the team has performed well at Barclays Center, where they've grabbed nine of their 11 wins this year; Tuesday's loss was just their second regulation loss in 12 home games this season.

Chicago won both matchups against the Isles last season with a 7-4 total goal differential. Patrick Kane led the way with five points (3G, 2A), while Artemi Panarin contributed a goal and two assists.

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Blackhawks, Rangers clash for second time in 5 days

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

The Blackhawks will face the New York Rangers for the second time in five days-and final time this season-on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won the first meeting 1-0 in overtime last Friday courtesy of a Nick Holden goal, and have now stretched their win streak to three games after dispatching New Jersey 5-0 on Sunday and their shutout streak to two outings.

Special teams were a big reason for New York's success against the Devils, as they scored twice on the power play and once shorthanded, while five different players lit the lamp, underlining the offensive depth and all-situation abilities of the roster.

The Blackhawks wrapped up their homestand on Sunday, defeating the Dallas Stars 3-1 while allowing just 24 shots on goal. Limiting opponents' scoring opportunities has been a big focus for the team, especially with so many important players still sidelined, and Sunday's effort was indicative of that.

"I thought we did some good things technically, defensively," Head Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "We managed the puck a little bit better and obviously scored some timely goals as well.... I don't think we gave up much tonight, and that's why we've been having success here."

MORNING SKATE UPDATE: The Blackhawks will get both Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook back tonight. Toews has missed nine games, while Seabrook sat out two games with injury.

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Blackhawks face Rangers' NHL-best offense on Friday

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

The Blackhawks will take on the New York Rangers twice over the next five days, with the first matchup happening on Friday at the United Center. Chicago is coming off a fairly straightforward 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes, but the two points came at the expense of defenseman Brent Seabrook, who exited Tuesday's game after falling into the boards and has been ruled out of Friday's tilt.

Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford remain out as well, but Chicago is not the only team entering the matchup with a limited roster. New York could be without some of their offensive depth, as Rick Nash suffered a groin injury, and youngsters Jimmy Vesey, Matt Puempel and Pavel Buchnevich were also on the shelf recently; Mika Zibanejad is out until at least mid-January after breaking his leg.

The Rangers were in action on Thursday night against Winnipeg, grinding out a 2-1 win courtesy of a late power-play goal by Kevin Hayes. They're level on points with Pittsburgh at the top of the Metropolitan Division while leading the league with a +29 goal differential.

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