clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015 Winter Classic preview: Blackhawks visit D.C. to face Capitals

The Chicago Blackhawks head to D.C. to square off with the Capitals in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's finally here.

The Chicago Blackhawks will head to our nation's capitol to take on the Washington Capitols in their first Winter Classic appearance since back in 2008-09 when they squared off against the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Of course, it's their third outdoor appearance overall, after dispatching of the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field last year, in what still stands as the most impressive performance that a team not named the Green Bay Packers put on there.

While there are some concerns about the supposed "lack" of buzz surrounding this Winter Classic, compared to years past, that may be due to the matchup more than anything. It's true that the league decided to go with a less traditional matchup, whereas previous classics have featured a much more historical rivalry, but it's also hard to argue with the markets and starpower that will be competing at Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon.

The Hawks come in having won three of their last four overall, including that Monday night comeback against the Nashville Predators. The Hawks overcame a 3-0 deficit against the upstart Preds and nabbed a 5-4 shootout win at home. They've been on a tear since the last time they met this Capitals team, having gone 18-4-1 overall since the clubs met in their only other meeting this season, back on November 7th.

In terms of individual performances of late, Joel Quenneville put the trio of Brad Richards, Kris Versteeg, and Patrick Kane back together on Monday, after Richards spent a couple of games in the press box due to injury. They picked up right where they left off, generating offensive chances to the tune of 11 shots combined, with Richards scoring and Versteeg and Kane each notching assists in the win.

With a game taking place on a national stage, Patrick Kane will be a primary focus. He's continued his torrid pace here after a bit of a slow start, ranking fifth in the league in goals (18) and sixth in the league in points overall, with 40. He has points in five of his last six games, including three-point performances on three different occasions. Whether it's putting the puck in the net or setting up his teammates, he's doing it all right now.

Corey Crawford will get the start in goal for the Blackhawks, not that anything else should have been expected. While he's had to shake off a bit of rust since his return from a lower body injury, he still ranks fourth in the league, with a 2.08 goals against average, and 10th in the league with a .921 save percentage. Antti Raanta will, of course, serve as the no. 2.

Opponent Breakdown: Washington Capitals

The Capitals don't quite have the track record of the Blackhawks this season, in terms of their actual record or their overwhelming success in the possession department, but they have played quite well recently nonetheless. They had a very successful month of December, working their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, going for an 8-2-3 record for the month.

Without getting too far into it, the possession numbers didn't paint the prettiest of pictures for Washington, despite the strong record for the month. A large part of that was due to the fact that Braden Holtby had an absolutely fantastic month, with a .941 save percentage during December. He's 16-8-6 on the year overall, with a .920 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average. It'll be interesting to watch that aspect, as the Hawks have had a nasty habit of running into hot goaltenders throughout the year. Will that continue on the Winter Classic stage?

Injury Report

Blackhawks: Michal Rozsival is expected to be back in action for the Blackhawks after missing a stretch with a lower body injury. His return likely signals Tim Erixon's departure from the lineup.

Capitals: Brooks Orpik is unlikely to appear in the Winter Classic, due to a knee injury sustained in Washington's last game against the New York Islanders. He's a game-time decision, but don't expect to see him.

Game Information

When: 12 p.m. C.T.

Where: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.


Radio: WGN 720