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Blackhawks vs. Avalanche preview: Scott Darling to start in regular-season finale

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Chicago tries to secure third in Central at Colorado.

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks will open the postseason on the road, but where that will be is still unknown.

Trying to lock down third place in the Central Division, the visiting Hawks look to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Scott Darling will get the start in net, meaning Corey Crawford will get nearly a week off. It will be Darling's first start agains the Avs and his second appearance this month - he made the start at Buffalo on April 3. Marcus Kruger is also back in the lineup after missing the last game with an illness.

Michael Paliotta will also make his NHL debut. The defenseman signed a two-year deal with the Hawks on March 26. The Vermont product led the team with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 41 games in his senior season.

Chicago (48-27-6) has dropped three straight 2-1 regulation decisions to playoff bound teams Minnesota and St. Louis. Two points ahead of Minnesota, the Hawks need one point in this regular-season finale to clinch the third spot in the Central Division.

One victory shy of his career-high 33 set during the 2010-11 season, Crawford continues to keep the Hawks in games. Crawford has posted a 1.78 goals-against average in four April starts. Crawford has yielded only seven goals in that span.

The Hawks have dropped two straight and five of their past seven in the series against Colorado, but Chicago has won each of their past two trips to Colorado.

Here are the lines from Saturday's skate:

Versteeg Toews Hossa
Saad Vermette Baun
Bickell Shaw Sharp
Nordstrom Kruger Teravainen

Opponent Breakdown: Colorado Avalanche

The 2013-14 Central champions will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. The Avalanche have finished their season strong, including winning five of their last six games at home.

Retro Berra made 41 saves for his first career shutout in Thursday's 1-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene scored in the shootout for the Avs.

Avs defenseman Brad Stuart sustained a leg injury early in the first period against the Jets and didn't return.

Duncan Siemens will make his NHL debut. The former 11th overall pick will be watched closely by the Avs faithful.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start for the Avs. He is 9-3-0 in 13 games against the Hawks with a 1.93 GAA, .946 save percentage and two shutouts.

Mile High Hockey Preview

Injury Report

ChicagoPatrick Kane (collarbone), Kimmo Timonen (upper-body) and Brad Richards (upper-body)

Colorado: Brad Stuart (day-to-day: leg), Dennis Everberg (day-to-day: shoulder), Nate MacKinnon (broken foot), Erik Johnson (knee), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Jamie McGinn (back), Ryan Wilson (shoulder) and Jamie Winchester (concussion)

Game Information

When: 8 p.m. CT

Where: Pepsi Center


Radio: WGN-720

For Chicago Blackhawks tickets, check out Ticketmaster. Follow Second City Hockey on Twitter at @2ndCityHockeyand Like us on Facebook. You can follow Brandon Cain on Twitter at @BrandonMCain.