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Hawks set to visit Rocky Mountains

by David Kalan /
BLACKHAWKS (16-12-3) at AVALANCHE (15-10-4)


Last 10 -- Chicago 6-3-1; Colorado 4-3-3

Season series -- Colorado leads the season series 1-0 after beating Chicago 4-3 on Paul Stastny's overtime-winner on Oct. 7 at the Pepsi Center.

Big Story -- Fresh off a big win in D.C., the Avalanche can take out another one of the League's powers when they host the defending-champion Blackhawks Monday in Colorado.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- While the Hawks look to be finding the winning ways that carried them through last seasons' title run -- Chicago has won five of its last seven games -- concerns still abound for the Indian Head. The Hawks still trail the Red Wings by six points in the Central Division despite having played three more games, and the obstacles are only compounded by Chicago currently being without offensive stalwarts Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa who are both enduring lengthy stays on injured reserve.

Matters weren't helped when the Hawks suffered a tough-luck overtime loss in San Jose Saturday night. Chicago fell after having the apparent go-ahead goal wiped away by a quick whistle in the second period, but despite goalie Corey Crawford taking his first loss in the last eight starts, the Hawks can still take solace in Crawford's 28 saves on 29 shots. With the No. 1 job seemingly his, Crawford has been a pillar of strength between the pipes for Chicago, which will loom large until the offensive cavalry begins to return. As the Blackhawks' offense has clearly experienced issues without Hossa and Kane -- Patrick Sharp has just one point in the last four games -- a win in Colorado on Crawford's back would be quite the boost.

Avalanche -- The Avs' up-and-down season has been continuing, but after two straight wins Colorado's momentum might be on the uptick. Prior to a 4-2 win in Atlanta Dec. 10, Colorado had lost six of its previous seven games, but after taking out the Thrashers, the Avs made a big statement 24 hours later with a 3-2 win over the explosive Capitals in D.C. washington is among the best home teams in the League, but three points from Paul Stastny was enough to fell last year's Presidents' Trophy winners.

That win has put Colorado in a tie with Vancouver atop the Northwest Division, but the Canucks have two games in hand, which could leave the Avs significantly behind the eight ball as the season enters the winter months. Of course, with the Avalanche starting to score in bunches -- even defenseman Ryan Wilson has gotten into the act with his first goal of the season -- another hot streak for Colorado will likely keep it in the mix in the Western Conference playoff race all season.

Who's Hot -- With the Hawks suffering their injury woes, Dave Bolland has chipped in with four points in the Hawks last three games. ... Stastny's six points in the last four games have helped to power Colorado's offense, but Matt Duchene has chipped in with five points of his own in the same span.

Injury Report -- Chicago will still be without Marian Hossa (lower-body injury) and Patrick Kane (left ankle). Colorado has already lost Chris Stewart (broken left hand) for at least a month, while Milan Hejduk (groin) may also be out after missing Saturday's win in Washington. The Avs could also be forced to play without Kyle Quincey, who left the game Saturday with a shoulder injury.

Stat Pack -- Despite Crawford's strong play of late there should be quite a bit of offense on display at the Pepsi Center. Colorado's 101 goals are the most in the West. Chicago is right behind the Avs with 96 on the season.

Puck Drop -- Colorado's win over Washington Saturday could be a sign that the Avs are going to be a force in the West this season, and despite Chicago's early season struggles and depleted lineup, a win over the Hawks would only keep the trend going, while potentially dealing a large blow to some of Colorado's toughest potential postseason competition.
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