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Surging Blackhawks drop in on Penguins

by Mike G. Morreale
BLACKHAWKS (21-8-4) at PENGUINS (18-11-4)


Last 10:
Chicago 8-1-1; Pittsburgh 5-5-0

Season Series:
This is the lone meeting between the two teams. The Blackhawks have won the previous two meetings, including a thrilling 3-2 shootout decision last February.

Big Story: Despite numerous injuries to key players, including four centers, the Penguins continue to defy the odds. The team snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday with a victory over the Buffalo Sabres and is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 18 wins and 40 points. The rash of injuries have made it imperative that others step up in different ways -- 14 players produced points, including seven with multiple-point efforts, in the win over the Sabres. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have won five straight and led the Western Conference standings heading into Monday night's action.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, 53, won his 600th game behind the bench on Sunday after his team scored a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. Steve Montador, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each scored goals for Chicago, which improved to 7-0-1 in the month of December. The Hawks also took sole possession of the top spot in the League from the Minnesota Wild (who played in Vancouver on Monday night) with 46 points. Captain Jonathan Toews gave the puck to his coach in the locker room.

"I went in there and (Toews) gave me the puck and I told them that all it means is I'm getting old," said Quenneville, who has coached three teams and has a career mark of 600-364-150 over 14 seasons. "They all feel good. There's nothing better than winning."

Penguins: Evgeni Malkin tied career highs with 3 goals and 5 points when the Pens skated to an 8-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at Consol Energy Center. The much-needed triumph came at a time when the Penguins were coming off four losses in their last five games. While Malkin's inspiring effort came just when the Penguins needed one, they lost yet another player when versatile forward Craig Adams went down with an apparent leg injury.

Who's Hot:
Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery made 22 saves on Sunday to post his fifth consecutive win and improve to 9-1-2 this season and Hossa extended his point-scoring streak to five games (4 goals, 6 assists) with a goal and an assist against the Flames.

Injury Report:
The Penguins are without centers Sidney Crosby (headache), Jordan Staal (lower body) and Richard Park (broken foot) and defensemen Paul Martin (leg), Kris Letang (concussion), Zbynek Michalek (concussion), Robert Bortuzzo (concussion), Ben Lovejoy (broken wrist) and Brian Strait (wrist damage). Adams (lower body) is day-to-day. … Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook (upper body) was hit from behind by Calgary's Rene Bourque near the end of the first period on Sunday and didn't return to the game. He is questionable against the Penguins. 

Stat Pack:
The game on Sunday was Quenneville's 1,114th game behind the bench. He's the second-fastest coach to reach the 600-win mark -- behind only Blackhawks Senior Advisor Scotty Bowman, who did it in 1,002 games with five different teams.

Puck Drop:
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury became the fourth-youngest goalie to record 200 career NHL victories -- only Grant Fuhr, Tom Barrasso and Martin Brodeur were younger. Patrick Roy was one week older than Fleury is now when he earned his 200th win. Fleury is 200-133-39 in seven-plus seasons with the Penguins.
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