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Connor Murphy to return as Blackhawks host Canadiens

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Chicago looks to snap its six-game losing streak.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Murphy is expected to make his season debut when the Blackhawks host the Canadiens on Sunday at the United Center.

Murphy has been on injured reserve since September after he underwent back surgery. The right-handed defenseman had two goals with 12 assists while averaging 16:22 minutes of ice time in 76 games during his first season with Chicago in 2017-18. During Saturday’s morning skate, he was on the second defensive pairing with Erik Gustafsson.

To make room for Murphy’s spot on the roster, Chicago placed fellow blue liner Gustav Forsling (shoulder) on injured reserve, retroactive to Dec. 5. Forsling had five points (one goal, four assists) and averaged 20:29 minutes in 11 games. He was injured during Wednesday’s game in Anaheim and did not skate the next night in Las Vegas.

Murphy won’t solve all of Chicago’s defensive troubles, but his return could be a boast to a team that has lost 17 of its last 20 and six straight. Early goals have plagued the Blackhawks as they’ve allowed the first goal in nine consecutive games and been outscored 22-5 in the first period. They also have a league-worst goal differential of minus-30.

Winger Brendan Perlini is expected to be a healthy scratch for the first time since he was acquired in a three-player trade with Arizona on Nov. 25. Dylan Strome, however, has benefitted from the change in scenery with three goals in his first six games for the Blackhawks.

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton is expected to keep Corey Crawford in net. Crawford is 8-1-2 record with a 1.54 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in 11 starts against his hometown team.

Montreal has won three of its last four games this month, including back-to-back victories against the Senators.

The Canadiens are led by forwards Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin with 30 and 26 points, respectively. Drouin is on a four-game points streak, totaling a goal and five assists during that span. Domi is tied with Brendan Gallagher for the team lead in goals at 13. Gallagher scored in each game against Ottawa.

Carey Price is expected to make his seventh straight start. He’s 10-8-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .900 save percentage in 22 games this season.

Blackhawks

Saad — Toews — Kampf

Kahun — Anisimov — Kane

DeBrincat — Strome — Fortin

Martinsen — Kruger — Hayden

Keith — Jokiharju

Gustafsson — Murphy

Manning — Seabrook

Crawford

Ward

Canadiens

Drouin — Domi — Shaw

Tatar — Danault — Gallagher

Byron — Kotkaniemi — Lehkonen

Agostino — Chaput — Peca

Kulak — Weber

Schlemko — Petry

Reilly — Benn

Price

Niemi

How to watch

Time: 5 p.m.

Location: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network