Of Chicago’s final 16 games, three will be against Colorado. And the Avalanche will need as many points as possible in those games while in the middle of the Western Conference playoff chase. Colorado currently sits one game behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, although the Avs do have a game in hand on the Kings.
The main player responsible for Colorado’s surge into playoff contention is 22-year-old center Nathan MacKinnon, who’s delivering on all the hype that made him a No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. With 57 games played, he has 31 goals (tied for 8th in the NHL), 46 assists (13th) and 77 total points (tied for fifth). MacKinnon is benefiting from a bump in shot percentage at 14.6% this season, well over his career mark of 9.3%. But make no mistake, this is a legit NHL star. He’s been putting up video game numbers in the last few weeks, with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in the last seven games. Not surprisingly, the Avs have obtained 10 of a possible 14 points in those outings.
Colorado boasts a few other weapons, on both of MacKinnon’s wings: 21-year-old Mikko Rantanen (22 goals, 42 assists) and Gabriel Landeskog (21 goals, 26 assists). And then there’s Semyon Varlamov in net, who’s been known to steal games at times. Varlamov’s heroics weren’t needed the last time these teams met, with Colorado scoring the first five goals en route to a 6-3 win Oct. 28. The Hawks have won two straight home games and three of their last four overall.
Chicago has owned this series in the last two seasons, winning three of four in 2015-16 and then going 3-0-2 in the prior season. For this matchup, only a mild lineup shift was noted in the morning skate, with Matthew Highmore jumping onto Artem Anisimov’s line and Anthony Duclair bumping down to David Kampf’s fourth line. Jean-Francois Berube will be the man in net after a rough Sunday outing for Anton Forsberg. And hopefully the collective performance in front of net is better than it was on Sunday in Anaheim.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane|
|F2||Alex DeBrincat - Nick Schmaltz - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|F3||Tomas Jurco - Artem Anisimov - Matthew Highmore|
|F4||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Anthony Duclair|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy|
|D2||Erik Gustaffson - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Jordan Oesterle - Jan Rutta|
|F1||Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen|
|F2||Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson|
|F3||Blake Comeau - Carl Soderberg - Matthew Nieto|
|F4||JT Compher - Dominic Toninato - Gabriel Bourque|
|D1||Tyson Barrie - Nikita Zadorov|
|D2||Samuel Girard - Patrik Nemeth|
|D3||Duncan Siemens - Anton Lindholm|
*Lines are subject to change.
How to watch Avalanche at Blackhawks
Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago