The Chicago Blackhawks will try to extend their season-long win streak to five games on Friday as they host the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center.
It will be the second and final meeting of the regular season for the Original Six. The Blackhawks shutout the Habs 5-0 on Nov. 4 in Montreal. Chicago entered the contest with two straight losses and were a mere 2-5-0 in their last seven contests. Since the victory at the Bell Centre, the Blackhawks have gone 10-3-0.
Chicago has won three consecutive games over Western Conference opponents Anaheim, Los Angeles and Central Division foe St. Louis to sit one point behind Nashville for the division lead. The Habs have won one of their last five games and rank second in the Atlantic Division. The Blackhawks kick off a four-game road trip Saturday in Nashville.
Patrick Sharp returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a right knee injury against the Habs. Sharp, who has three goals and six assists in 13 games this season, is considered day-to-day and isn't expected to play until next week on the road trip. Sharp's absence moved Brandon Saad up to the top line and Kris Versteeg into Saad's role on the second line.
Chicago's second line of Patrick Kane, Brad Richards and Versteeg continues to dominate the offensive effort, combining for three goals and six points to lead the Hawks to a 4-1 win over the Blues on Wednesday. Kane netted two goals and Versteeg scored the game-winner early in the third period before contributing assists on both of Kane's goals. Richards also added an assist.
Kane now has eight multi-point games this season, including six in his last eight contests while Versteeg with seven multi-point performances, including three straight. Richards has five points in his last three games, and he is fifth on the team with 17 points.
The PB&K line isn't the only thing clicking for the Hawks as the league's top penalty-killing unit was 6 for 6 against the Blues' fifth-ranked power play, led by Marcus Kruger. Antti Raanta made his first start since Oct. 25 in wake of Corey Crawford's injury, and made 40 saves. The win improved his record to 2-2-0 this season, with a 1.77 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. Raanta is expected to start between the pipes for his first career appearance against the Habs.
Defensemen Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson did not participate in practice Thursday. Swedish rookie Klas Dahlbeck has joined the team after Chicago sent Adam Clendening back to the Rockford IceHogs. Clendening, who scored on his first shot in his first game in Calgary to open the Circus Trip, was a healthy scratch in each of the last three games. Dahlbeck, the third-round pick in 2011, has two goals and four assists in 22 games with Rockford this season.
Opponent Breakdown: Montreal Canadiens
Montreal are 1-1-0 so far on a four-game road trip, beating the Colorado Avlanche on Monday before losing Wednesday in Minnesota. The Habs have lost four straight at the United Center. Their last victory in the Windy City was on Feb. 27, 2002.
The Habs dropped a 2-1 contests to the Wild while getting outshot 35-19. Alex Galchenyuk scored Montreal's lone goal with just 58 seconds left in regulation. Galchenyuk's goal extended his point streak to three games, he his third on the team with 17 points in 27 games.
Backup goaltender Dustin Tokarski may start against Chicago or Saturday night in Dallas as Montreal closes its road trip. Carey Price is 3-2-0 with a 2.19 GAA and .931 SV in his career against the Hawks, while Tokarski has never faced Chicago.
The Habs assigned Michael Bournival to the Hamilton Bulldogs for a three-game condition stint. Forward Drayson Bowman was recalled, who has played in three games for Montreal this season, has scored three goals and seven points in 14 games with the Bulldogs on the season.
Chicago: Corey Crawford (foot), Patrick Sharp (lower body) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (knee).
Montreal: Michael Bournival (shoulder)
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center
TV: CSN Chicago
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