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Sliding Blackhawks face off against Devils

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Chicago went 0-2 against New Jersey last season.

Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Blackhawks hit the road to New Jersey to battle the Devils on Monday night at the Prudential Center.

It’s the first of two meetings this season between the two teams. They’ll meet again Feb. 14 in Chicago. New Jersey swept the series last season.

The Devils come into the game on bit of a rough patch. They have gone 2-4-0 in their last six games. Last season’s MVP, Taylor Hall, has been out of commission with a lower-body injury since Dec. 23. He was placed on the injured reserve Jan. 1, and still has not resumed skating. In Hall’s absence, Miles Wood, Nico Hischier — No. 1 pick from 2017 — and Pavel Zacha have been the Devil’s top producing forwards. However, the offensive production has slowly deteriorated since Hall’s injury and the Devils have a 2.63 goals per game rate in their last eight games. The league average is currently 3.04 goals per game.

The bright spot for the Devils in the past month has been rookie goalie MacKenzie Blackwood, who has impressive numbers this season. He has played in nine games, and owns a 1.85 goals-against-average with a .947 save percentage. He was activated off IR on Saturday after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Blackwood stopped 32 out of 34 shots in a 3-2 win against the Flyers on Saturday.

The Blackhawks have lost three straight, which includes back-to-back losses in overtime. In their last 12 games, the Hawks have gone 6-3-3.

One of the major reasons for the Hawks recent .500 stretch is their power play. Since Jeremey Colliton took over behind the bench, the Hawks have jumped up the power play rankings from the NHL basement to 17th with a 17.7-percent conversion rate. The first power play unit of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson have found their groove. Kane quarterbacks the power play from the wall and waits for an opportunity to either take a shot from the high slot or thread a needle right to DeBrincat’s tape backdoor. Toews and Strome have also done an admirable job keeping plays alive by winning battles down low and in front of the net.

Chicago will turn to Cam Ward in net. The veteran goaltender is 7-7-4 with a 3.80 GAA and .889 save percentage in his first season with the Blackhawks. He hasn’t played since Jan. 6, when he allowed three goals on 34 shots in Chicago’s win at Pittsburgh.

The Hawks sit six points behind the Wild, who are clinging on to the second wild card spot. Chicago will need to string some wins together to get back in the playoff hunt.

NHL Western Conference Wild Card Standings

*Lines and starting goalies updated 5:30 pm

Blackhawks

DeBrincat-Toews-Kahun

Saad-Strome-Kane

Kunitz-Anisimov-Perlini

Kampf-Kruger-Caggiula

Keith-Gustafsson

Jokiharju-Seabrook

Dahstrom-Murphy

Ward

Delia

Devils

Johansson — Hischier — Palmieri

Wood — Zajac — Coleman

Seney — Zacha — Bratt

Boyle — Rooney — Stafford

Greene — Severson

Butcher — Vatanen

Mueller — Lovejoy

Blackwood

Kinkaid

How to Watch

Time: 6 p.m.

Location: Prudential Center; Newark, New Jersey

TV: NBC Sports Chicago