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Blackhawks visit streaking Penguins

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Chicago looks to snap two-game slide in Pittsburgh.

Chicago Blackhawks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

The Blackhawks head to Pittsburgh to battle Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins extended their win streak to eight games with a 4-0 shutout victory against the Jets on Friday. The streak has moved them into a tie for first in the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals.

The big five of Crosby (4 G, 11 A), Evgeni Malkin (2 G, 5 A), Phil Kessel (3 G, 7 A), Jake Guentzel (4 G, 5 A), and Norris trophy candidate Kris Letang (3 G, 7 A) have been leading the charge during the winning streak. Crosby, in particular, has been playing at a MVP pace during the streak and is averaging multiple points in his last six games. In addition to the offensive stars producing, goaltending has been nearly impenetrable. Matt Murray, who has battled inconsistency and injuries the last two seasons, has been on a roll since returning from the IR on December 15th. In his last seven games started, he is 7-0, has a 0.79 goals-against-average and a 0.962 save percentage, and two shutouts. Casey DeSmith, who has done a solid job of stepping in for Murray when needed, is 3-1-0 in his last four games started, has a 1.00 GAA and a .944 save percentage.

Here is a shot chart for Murray and DeSmith in their last seven and four games respectively.

On the other hand, the Hawks have gone 3-2-1 in their last six games. They are on a two-game losing streak after a tough loss outdoors to Bruins at the Winter Classic and an overtime loss against the New York Islanders. The losses have not been on the netminders, Collin Delia and Cam Ward. The Hawks have a goals-for per game rate of 2.83 in their last six games. The league average is 3.06, which is the highest it has been since 3.08 during the 2005-2006 NHL season. Delia, who has earned the starters job with stellar play in his first four starts of the season, will almost certainly get the nod in net. If not, Delia will get the home start against the Calgary Flames Monday night. He has gone 3-0-1, has a 1.98 goals-against-average and a 0.952 save-percentage, and has stopped 30-plus shots in all four starts. During the 3-2 OT loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday, Delia stopped 47 out of 50 shots.

The Hawks have made some recent roster moves to make way for incoming left-winger Drake Caggiula, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers and GM Peter Chiarelli for struggling defenseman Brandon Manning. Caggiula carries a $1.5 million cap hit and found himself on the fourth line in his first practice with the Hawks on Saturday. He has seven goals, four assists, and a 49.0 corsi-for percentage this season. He had 13 goals in 67 games played last season with the Oilers. Caggiula is 24-years old and hopefully sparks some offense on the bottom six. Chris Kunitz is also slotted on the fourth line for Sunday’s matchup against the Pens. Kunitz has not seen the ice since December 23rd and looks to be in the lineup due to a celebration of the 2009 Stanley Cup winning Penguins team, which Kunitz was a member of.

A few notes and relevant stats on the two teams

  • Jake Guentzel signed a five year, $30million contract extension on December 27th
  • Pens power play conversion rate is 27.2 percent, which is tied for 7th in the NHL. Penalty kill is at 83.9 percent, which is 4th.
  • Hawks power play conversion rate has creeped up to 15.5%, which is now 24th. Penalty kill is still in the cellar at 73.2 percent, which is 31st.
  • Hawks have 20 penalty minutes in their last 3 games. Opponents have converted on 40.0 percent of those power plays.
  • Pens All Stars: Crosby (4th appearance). Letang is up for last man vote.
  • Hawks All Stars: Patrick Kane (8th appearance). Jonathan Toews is up for last man vote.
  • Hawks promoted former player Sheldon Brookbank to the NHL coaching staff and will serve as an assistant to Jeremy Colliton.
  • Kane has eight goals and six assists in his last nine games played. His seven-game point streak was snapped in the Winter Classic.
  • Hawks goal differential sits at minus-33, which is tied for 30th in the league
  • Hawks are on a nine game winning streak against the Pens dating back to the 2014-2015 season.

What the Hawks need to do to get the win?

  1. Stay out of the box
  2. A goal from the third or fourth line
  3. Convert on a power play opportunity
  4. First line continues to dominate possession metrics. In OT loss to the Isles, Toews had a 60% CF, Brandon Saad and Dominik Kahun were at 58.6 and 54.6 respectively.

Update: Ward gets the start tonight. He stopped 32 out of 35 shots against the Bruins at the Winter Classic, and is 6-7-4 on the season. Ward owns a 3.85 goals-against-average and a 0.888 save-percentage.

DeSmith gets the nod for the Pens.

*Lines updated at 1:30 PM CDT following Saturday’s practice.

Blackhawks

Saad-Toews-Kahun

Anisimov-Strome-Kane

DeBrincat-Kampf-Perlini

Caggiula-Kruger-Kunitz

Keith — Gustafsson

Forsling — Seabrook

Dahlstrom — Murphy

Ward

Delia

Penguins

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Simon-Malkin-Hornqvist

Pearson-Brassard-Kessel

Sheahan-Cullen-Aston Reese

Dumoulin-Letang

Pettersson-Johnson

Maatta-Riikola

DeSmith

Murray

How to Watch

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

TV: NBC Sports Network