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Preview: Blackhawks at Penguins

Chicago, Pittsburgh seek to gain in Presidents' Trophy race

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

BLACKHAWKS (48-21-7) at PENGUINS (46-18-11)

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV

 

Blackhawks team scope

The Chicago Blackhawks will look to increase their lead atop the Central Division and Western Conference. The Blackhawks (103 points) are seven points ahead of the Minnesota Wild. Chicago is 18-4-2 in its past 24 games but 1-1-2 in its past four including a 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to start; he allowed four goals on 25 shots against the Panthers after winning his previous four decisions. Crawford is 30-16-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 50 games this season. Chicago has allowed at least five goals in three of its past four games. Forward Ryan Hartman will play after being a healthy scratch in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. "I'm excited to be back," Hartman said. "No one likes to not play. Everyone wants to play games. No one wants to sit out games."

 

Penguins team scope

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin is expected to miss his seventh consecutive game. Malkin last played against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 15, two days after he sustained an upper-body injury when he blocked a shot against the Calgary Flames. The Penguins won their first three games without Malkin, but have lost their past three (0-1-2), including a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Forward Conor Sheary, who coach Mike Sullivan said is a game-time decision, could be in the lineup after he sustained a lower-body injury against Philadelphia. Sheary has helped make up for Malkin's absence with seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past six games. "I think I should be good," Sheary said. "Yesterday was kind of the test day and this morning, I felt good." The Penguins (103 points) will attempt to move into a second-place tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh is two points behind Columbus and five behind the division-leading Washington Capitals. Each team has seven games remaining. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (upper body) likely will play after missing the game Sunday. Forward Matt Cullen skated Wednesday and is expected to play after missing practice Tuesday with an undisclosed illness.

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Nick Schmaltz -- Jonathan Toews -- Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin -- Tanner Kero -- Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman -- Marcus Kruger -- Marian Hossa

John Hayden -- Dennis Rasmussen -- Tomas Jurco

Duncan Keith -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny Oduya -- Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Michal Kempny, Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo, Andrew Desjardins

Injured: Artem Anisimov (lower body)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Bryan Rust

Matt Cullen -- Carter Rowney -- Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz -- Nick Bonino -- Patric Hornqvist

Tom Kuhnhackl -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Scott Wilson

Brian Dumoulin -- Justin Schultz

Ian Cole -- Cameron Gaunce

Mark Streit -- Chad Ruhwedel

Marc-Andre Fleury

Matt Murray

Scratched: Josh Archibald

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Trevor Daley (knee), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Ron Hainsey (upper body), Tom Sestito (upper body), Jake Guentzel (concussion)

 

Status report

Rasmussen is also expected to return after being a healthy scratch on Monday. … Hainsey (upper body) and Guentzel (concussion) each wore a regular contact jersey during Pittsburgh's morning skate for the first time since sustaining their respective injuries. They likely won't play.

 

Who's hot

Kane has 22 points (14 goals, eight assists) in his past 16 games. His 82 points are tied with Crosby and Capitals forward Niklas Backstrom for second in the NHL, seven points behind Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid. … Crosby has 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in his past nine games. He leads the League with 42 goals, four more than Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. … Sheary has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in his past 15 games.

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