Blackhawks end road trip by visiting Rangersby Tal Pinchevsky
BLACKHAWKS (35-11-14) at RANGERS (32-24-3)
TV: NHLN-US, CSN-CH, MSG
Last 10: Chicago 4-3-3; New York 7-3-0
Season series: Unless they face off in the Stanley Cup Final, this will be the last game this season between the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. Their only other game came Jan. 8, a 3-2 road win for the Rangers in which Carl Hagelin scored the winner with 5:57 remaining in regulation.
Big story: Each team resumes its season after taking a break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But neither will be completely rested as Chicago and New York combined to send 16 players to Sochi; nine for Chicago, seven for New York.
Blackhawks: Chicago had a remarkable six players competing in the gold-medal game in Sochi; three each for Canada and Sweden. So the Blackhawks will have a number of players fresh from an emotional Olympic tournament as they play the finale in a seven-game road trip that began on Jan. 28 and carried up to the Olympics.
The most prominent difference between this Chicago team and the one that began that trip will be the presence of center Peter Regin, who will play his second game for the Blackhawks after being acquired from the New York Islanders along with forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard on Feb. 6. Regin is expected to play on Chicago's second line, meaning the Danish veteran will be inserted into one of the NHL's best top-six forward units after spending much of the season on a struggling Islanders team.
"I'm not 100 percent sure exactly what kind of player [he is] or the role [he'll play]," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Tuesday. "I think he can score and he can make plays. I think reliability is part of his game. [We'll] give him a chance offensively to see what's there."
For Regin, that will likely mean playing on a line with star wing Patrick Kane, who did not play in Regin's Blackhawks debut on Feb. 7 as he was attending his grandfather's funeral.
Rangers: The Rangers were one of the League's hottest teams entering the Olympic break. And no one was hotter on the Rangers than franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has gone 10-2-1 in his past 13 games with a 1.69 goals-against average and sparkling .945 save percentage. Lundqvist continued that stellar play with Sweden in the Olympics, where his 1.50 GAA and .943 save percentage helped to lead Tre Kronor to the silver medal.
Lundqvist will get to ease his way back into NHL action as Cam Talbot is slated to start Thursday. Lundqvist will face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
But the Olympics weren't all good news for the Rangers. Forward Mats Zuccarello was the lone NHL player on Norway's Olympic team and was forced to leave the tournament with a fractured left hand that will keep him out 3-4 weeks. Losing their leading scorer is a tough blow for New York, but Derek Dorsett is ready to return from a broken fibula (though he won't play Thursday) and J.T. Miller was recalled from the American Hockey League and will skate on a line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot.
Who's hot: Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was an absolute workhorse for Canada in Sochi, finishing second on the team in ice time and tied for the team lead with a plus-6 on his way to capturing gold. Goaltender Corey Crawford went into the break on a hot streak, posting a 3-1-1 record in his past five starts with a 1.60 GAA. … Lundqvist has been arguably the world's best goaltenders over the past two months, but Brassard entered the break on a six-game point streak for the Rangers in which he collected eight points. He'll have to continue that hot play without his linemate, Zuccarello.
Injury report: Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. … In addition to Zuccarello (hand), defenseman Marc Staal has been out with back spasms, but coach Alain Vigneault expects him to play.