The Chicago Blackhawks return to the ice Friday night for a home matchup against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Coming off a beatdown of the Canadiens in Montreal a couple days ago, the 'Hawks look to sustain the momentum against another Eastern Conference foe.
The Capitals are arriving in Chicago at a good time for the Blackhawks, as Washington has dropped its past five games and currently sits near the bottom of the standings. Washington still boasts some impressive talent like Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green, but issues on defense and in goal have led to several losses.
That's good for the Blackhawks, who are looking to sustain the momentum established in a win over Montreal. Racking up five goals on Carey Price was certainly nice, and facing the likes of Braden Holtby on Friday, the 'Hawks should have another opportunity to put up a big goal total.
The greater challenges will likely come on defense, since the Capitals remain one of the more potent offenses in the league, especially on the power play. The team may need another big performance from Corey Crawford, who's been fantastic lately, saving 55 of 57 shot attempts over the past two games.
Friday also represents the Blackhawks' first game without Patrick Sharp, who's sidelined for a few weeks due to injury. Peter Regin has taken his spot in the lineup, leading to the usual blending across the different lines, but it's hard to predict how the playing time will ultimately shake out given how the season has gone thus far.
Opponent Breakdown: Washington Capitals
The Capitals have lost five consecutive games and currently own a 4-5-3 record, good for sixth in the Metropolitan Division. The offense is among the most productive in the league, currently ranking fifth in goals per game, but subpar goaltending and questionable defense have buried the team so far.
The current five-game losing streak has been especially ugly for Washington, which began the season 4-1-2. Since then, the team has allowed at least four goals in every game, including six in a tight loss to the Coyotes earlier this week. Despite several offseason changes, this remains a pretty weak defensive team.
With that said, Ovechkin and others remain highly productive. Despite a lengthy scoring drought earlier this season, Ovi still has six goals and seven assists in 12 games this season, including seven points over his past three games. Backstrom has been similarly productive, with 13 points (3G, 10A) in 12 games and six over the past three.
Unfortunately, as prolific as the Ovechkin-Backstrom duo remains, the Capitals are having a tough time winning games with such poor defense. Heading into Friday's matchup against a Blackhawks team that's still due for good luck offensively, there's probably reason for folks in D.C. to be worried.
Patrick Sharp is the big absence of the Blackhawks, obviously, though the team is also without Daniel Carcillo, who remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
The Capitals were without Brooks Laich for a few games, but he's expected to return tonight. The team doesn't have any other significant injuries.
|'HAWKS VS. CAPS LINEUPS
|ALSO SEE: JAPERS' RINK, SBN'S CAPS BLOG|
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center
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(Statistics via NHL.com and Hockey Reference)