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Blackhawks begin home-and-home with Avalanche

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Colorado is 6-3-0 in their last nine games.

Colorado Avalanche v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks will face off against the Avalanche as the two teams start a home-and-home Friday at the United Center. Both teams have been trending upward recently, but the Avalanche’s 6-3 stretch since their 9-4 victory over the Predators is much more impressive than the Blackhawks’ 5-2-2 stretch in their last nine games.

Chicago (10-9-5) secured a 3-0 win against the Stars in the second game of that extended home-and-home, and both games were some of the best hockey the Blackhawks have played this season, though they came after a two-game slide. The Avalanche (14-8-2) just beat the Oilers to buck their own losing ways.

While Corey Crawford was the star, the Blackhawks’ forwards found their way against Dallas in the most recent game. Not only did Chicago get a rare game this season where they out-possessed the opposing team in Corsi and shot share, but Brandon Saad scored at even strength and Patrick Kane scored on the power play. The Blackhawks still need their power play to be more consistent, but going 1-for-1 against a top-tier penalty kill is a step in the right direction.

Fortunately, the Blackhawks will have a chance to gain some momentum on the man advantage as Colorado is 22nd on the penalty kill. A nice break after facing the fifth-ranked team in back-to-back games.

Crawford will make back-to-back starts in goal. He’s 4-1-1 in his last six starts with a 1.82 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.

The Avalanche are led by Nathan MacKinnon who has 15 goals and 35 points, and rookie defenseman Cale Makar who has seven goals and 25 points. MacKinnon is in the Hart race and Makar is the favorite for the Calder.

Colorado is also getting help from wingers Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi, both offseason additions, who have stepped up in the absence of Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. In addition to Rantanen and Landeskog, forwards Colin Wilson and Matt Calvert, as well as defenseman Erik Johnson are all sidelined.

While both of their goaltenders have missed games, they’ve played well. Philipp Grubauer has a .912 save percentage in 15 games and Pavel Francouz has a .920 in eight, including six starts. Francouz is slated to start for Colorado for the first time since Nov. 9.

The Avalanche and the Blackhawks have similar weaknesses, but Colorado has a better defense with Makar, Nikita Zadorov, Ian Cole and Sam Girard. The Avalanche also have one of the best offenses in the league, despite their middling power-play results. This will be a tough game on the Blackhawks’ even-strength defense.

The Blackhawks also have two forwards in concussion protocol, with Drake Caggiula now on long-term injured reserve and Dylan Strome entering protocol Tuesday.

Tale of the Tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Avalanche

47.3% (26th) — Corsi For — 49.7% (17th)

48.8% (24th) — Faceoffs — 47.6% (t-27th)

2.88 (18th) — Goals per game — 3.54 (3rd)

2.75 (7th) — Goals against per game — 2.92 (t-11th)

13.7% (27th) — Power play — 18.8% (t-15th)

81.3 (t-16th) — Penalty kill — 77.8 (t-21st)

Lineups

Blackhawks

Saad — Toews — Nylander

DeBrincat — Dach — Kane

Shaw — Kampf — Kubalik

Smith — Carpenter — Highmore

Keith — Gustafsson

De Haan — Seabrook

Maatta — Murphy

Crawford

Lehner

Avalanche

Donskoi — MacKinnon — Burakovsky

Jost — Kadri — Compher

Nieto — Bellemare — Nichushkin

O’Connor — Kamenev — Tynan

Makar — Zadorov

Rosen — Girard

Cole — Graves

Francouz

Grubauer

How to watch

When: 3 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app