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Brodeur, Devils host Blackhawks

by Mike Battaglino

BLACKHAWKS (28-7-8) at DEVILS (17-16-8)


Last 10: Chicago 6-1-3; New Jersey 5-3-2

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2 at United Center on Dec. 23. New Jersey got within 3-2 early in the third period but managed three shots on goal after that and were outshot 37-12 in the game.

Big story: Antti Raanta could get his final start in goal for the Blackhawks for a while, after starter Corey Crawford returned from injury in a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Raanta started the previous 10 games, and is 10-1-3 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .913 save percentage over the first 15 games of his NHL career.

The Blackhawks took three goalies (including recently acquired veteran Jason LaBarbera) on this two-game road trip and soon will decide if Raanta will remain as Crawford's backup or return to the minors for more playing time.

Chicago has three back-to-back sets before the Olympic break.

"These decisions always play themselves out," coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. "[Raanta] did a great job for us, so we're happy with what he can do. He really has helped himself and put us and him in a good spot."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: The loss to New York was Chicago's first to a Metropolitan Division team this season (5-0-1). Chicago is 10-1-3 against the Eastern Conference.

"We're never going to be satisfied with one point," captain Jonathan Toews told CSN Chicago. "If we get that far, we know we're very close to being able to get the second point. All in all, I don't think it was a complete effort tonight. We were a little bit sloppy in our own zone, and we have to do better tomorrow night."

Crawford made 31 saves playing for the first time since he sustained a lower-body injury Dec. 8.

"The energy was there," he said. "I was seeing the puck pretty well. I think I gave some rebounds that I usually I take care of. I felt pretty good out there."

Devils: New Jersey is 2-0-1 since that loss at Chicago.

"I think everybody in our group walked out of that rink embarrassed at the result, embarrassed at how we played," coach Peter DeBoer told the Devils website Thursday. "That's what a good team like that does to you if you don't show up and are ready to play."

The Devils have had success against "good" teams this season. Including a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, New Jersey is 5-2-0 against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (Pittsburgh, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning), and has a win against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.

"The record speaks for itself a little bit," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "I think we've gotten our good games against top teams, but in the next few weeks we need to play well against every team. ... It always says a lot when you're able to play well against the good teams, but we respect the teams that are above us and maybe that brings the best out of us."

Brodeur will start. Cory Schneider likely will play Saturday at the Buffalo Sabres.

Forward Patrik Elias, injured against the Penguins, could be available, DeBoer said, as could forward Ryan Carter and defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

"I talked to [Patrik] this morning. He's feeling better," DeBoer said. "Again, another guy we'll see how he feels in the morning."

Who's hot: Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp has eight points in the past five games, and 18 in 12; Toews has eight in five, and 16 in 12; and defenseman Brent Seabrook has five in five, and 13 in 13. Defenseman Duncan Keith had a four-game, seven-point streak snapped. ... The Devils line of Ryane Clowe, Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder has combined for four goals and eight points since Clowe returned from a concussion Dec. 27. Brodeur is 5-1-1 in his past seven starts and has given up one goal in each of his past two games.

Injury report: Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) is out. ... Carter (lower body) has a "decent shot" to play, DeBoer said, after sitting out since Nov. 30. Volchenkov (undisclosed) has missed two games. Defenseman Adam Larsson (lower body) is close to returning. Forward Damien Brunner (knee) and defenseman Peter Harrold (foot) are out.

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