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Blackhawks provide pre-break challenge for Devils

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The New Jersey Devils will head into the Christmas break by playing the defending Stanley Cup champions Monday at United Center.

"I could think of better places to end," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, laughing. "But you've got to come here at some point. Our guys are excited for the challenge."

The NHL-leading Blackhawks (25-7-6) are looking forward to it after falling 3-2 in a shootout against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. They'd like to get back on a winning track before getting three days off for the holiday.

Chicago hasn't faced New Jersey since the 2011-12 season and hasn't beaten the Devils at United Center since a 5-1 victory Dec. 31, 2009. The Blackhawks haven't beaten the Devils regardless of location since April 2, 2010 at Prudential Center.

"We haven't seen them in a bit," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've been watching them on tape and they're playing well. They're coming off a big win [against the Washington Capitals] and they're comparable [to] the same style they've played in the past. They have a lot of guys that play the right way."

Cory Schneider (4-7-5, 2.03 goals-against average) will start in net for the Devils (15-15-7). Antti Raanta (7-1-2, 2.22 GAA) will start his ninth straight game for the Blackhawks, who are missing top goalie Corey Crawford and backup Nikolai Khabibulin because of lower-body injuries.

Here are the projected lineups:


Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Steve Bernier - Patrik Elias - Mattias Tedenby

Reid Boucher - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Cam Janssen - Stephen Gionta - Jacob Josefson

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Eric Gelinas - Marek Zidlicky

Anton Volchenkov - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Andrei Loktionov, Tim Sestito

Injured: Damien Brunner (right knee), Ryane Clowe (concussion), Ryan Carter (leg), Bryce Salvador (foot stress fracture), Peter Harrold (broken foot), Adam Larsson (lower body)


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Brandon Saad

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michael Kostka

Antti Raanta

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body), Corey Crawford (lower body)

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