PENGUINS (36-19-4) at BLACKHAWKS (29-23-6)
TV -- NBC (HD)
Last 10 –
Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Chicago 3-5-2
Season series --
This is the lone meeting between the two teams. Kris Versteeg had the game-winning goal in a 2-1 overtime victory for Chicago in the only meeting last season.
Big story --
These are the two most recent winners of the Stanley Cup -- even if they don't look like it right now. The Penguins have been decimated by injuries, while the Blackhawks retooled their roster in the offseason and a recent slump has left them in danger of not being able to defend their title.
Pittsburgh finally dressed the same lineup in back-to-back contests for the first time in eight games when the Penguins defeated the Colorado Avalanche in overtime Wednesday. The lineup will change again at United Center, but it will be a regular returning to the lineup instead of another call-up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- Matt Cooke
will return from his four-game suspension.
Despite all their injuries, the Penguins have not lost sight of Philadelphia in the battle for the top spot on the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh won't have much of a chance to catch the Flyers if some of their injured players, particularly Sidney Crosby
, can't return soon. The Penguins do have enough of a cushion that even a slump shouldn’t put them in danger of missing the playoffs.
Chicago is trying to get back into the top eight in the Western Conference, but the Blackhawks dropped a key contest against similarly-positioned Columbus on Friday and the two clubs are now level on points. The Blackhawks are officially in 11th place because of having more non-shootout wins.
Not only did the Blackhawks have to remodel the roster after winning the Cup because of salary cap considerations, but they are currently without coach Joel Quenneville, who’s been hospitalized with an ulcer. Mike Haviland will continue to coach the team until Quenneville is ready to return.
Who's hot -- Tyler Kennedy
has 5 goals in his past 8 games for the Penguins. Brett Stirling has a point (2 goals, 2 assists) in each of his 4 games since being recalled from the minors. … Patrick Kane
missed 2 games with the flu, but has collected 3 points in 3 of the past 5 games he has played in for Chicago.
Injury report --
Crosby (concussion), left wing Chris Kunitz
(lower body), LW Eric Tangredi (concussion) and RW Arron Asham
(upper body) are all out indefinitely. Center Evgeni Malkin
is done for the season with torn knee ligaments. Centers Mark Letestu
(knee) and Dustin Jeffery (lower body) are also out but probably the closest to returning. … Chicago is without center Ryan Johnson (concussion) and right wing Fernando Pisani (head)
Stat pack --
Kennedy is Pittsburgh's leading healthy goal-scorer with 12 -- Crosby (32), Kunitz (18) and Malkin (15) all are injured. The Penguins have won 10 of the 18 games Crosby has missed. The key has been defense and goaltending -- they've allowed 15 goals in those victories. … There are only two teams in the NHL that currently have three players with at least 50 points, but Chicago will join that group with Kane's next point. Patrick Sharp
's career high for goals is 36, but he's on pace for 42 this season.
Puck drop --
This is the featured game of NBC's coverage of Hockey Weekend Across America. There are a trio of regional games before this one, and the pre-game show for that will take place at Chicago's Millennium Park.
"It's going to be a great scene," NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood said. "The show opens with Eddie Olczyk skating with the Stanley Cup in the middle of Chicago's Millennium Park. Not a bad spectacle to begin the day."