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Hot Blackhawks visit streaking Hurricanes

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The Blackhawks are 7-1-1 in their last nine games while the Hurricanes have points in their last four.

Chicago Blackhawks v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks look to stay hot against the Hurricanes Friday night in Carolina after winning three games in a row and six of their last seven. The Hurricanes are on a point streak of their own — four games — after a 4-3 overtime loss against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.

Carolina is near the top of the class for the Central Division, with only three regulation losses in 14 games. They’re also near the top of the league in almost every offensive category at 5-on-5 — including being 1st in expected goals per 60 — and combine that with mostly top-10 defensive numbers across the board. The only weakness for the Hurricanes is in goal: with Petr Mrazek still out after having surgery on his hand, the tandem of James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic have a .893 save percentage and 3.14 GAA. Reimer will start for the Hurricanes Friday.

Not unlike the Blackhawks, the Hurricanes are powered by a few steely vets and several young stars. A rejuvenated Jordan Staal leads the team with 15 points (7 G, 8 A) and has scored a goal in each of the last four games while Vincent Trocheck is riding a four-game point streak of his own with seven points (2 G, 5 A). Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are both on a point-per-game pace with 14 games played, while Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele have respectable 0.64 PPG after both missed time on the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol list. Their defensive group is also one of the best in the league with an impressive top-four of Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton, and Brady Skjei — all legitimate possibilities for their respective national teams in the upcoming 2022 Olympics.

Similarly, the Blackhawks are led by their age-defying core duo of Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith and a group of upstart young guns. Kane once again leads the team in point with 23 (7G, 16A) and has put himself into early Hart Trophy consideration while Duncan Keith continues to eat 24-25 minutes a night like he’s not turning 38 in a few months. Pius Suter (6 G, 4 A), Philipp Kurashev (5 G, 4 A), and Nicolas Beaudin (2 G, 3 A) are all in the top 10 among NHL rookies in terms of their point-per-game rates. Dominik Kubalik has 10 points (3G, 7A) on the power play, and Alex DeBrincat is making his doubters look silly with 11 points (8G, 4A) over the last 8 games. Kevin Lankinen has been garnering national attention as one of the best performing goaltenders in the league and is expected in net Friday.

Although he won’t play tonight, Connor Murphy practiced with the team for the first time since being placed on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 9 for a right hip injury. It’s unknown when he’ll draw back into the lineup but coach Jeremy Colliton said Murphy has been skating for a few days and is nearing a return.

The Blackhawks continue to defy expectation and are currently in a playoff position based on points percentage. There are a lot of games left to play, but it’s still pretty amazing considering that, before the season started, no one had the Blackhawks flirting with the playoffs, even temporarily. While the wins haven’t been pretty and they still need to find a way to possess the puck more often, the Hawks keep beating the odds as they find ways to scrap out wins. And a healthy, rested Hurricanes team will be the biggest test of the season so far.

Just to note, Saturday night’s rematch against the Hurricanes has been postponed as the league juggles scheduling after so many COVID and weather delays.

Tale of the tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Hurricanes

45.98% (30th) — Corsi For — 54.79% (2nd)

45.21% (28th) — Expected goals for — 56.10% (2nd)

2.89 (18th) — Goals per game — 3.57 (3rd)

2.72 (14th) — Goals against per game — 2.86 (17th)

47.2% (25th) — Faceoffs — 54.4% (2nd)

32.7% (3rd) — Power play — 28.3% (7th)

82.1% (12th) — Penalty kill — 80.4% (13th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Suter — Kane

Janmark — Strome — Kubalik

Kurashev — Soderberg — Hagel

Wallmark — Kampf — ??

Keith — Mitchell

de Haan — Carlsson

Zadorov — Beaudin

Boqvist

Lankinen/Subban

Hurricanes

McGinn — Aho — Teravainen

Niederretier — Trocheck — Necas

Svechnikov — Staal — Foegele

Martinook — Paquette — Fast

Slavin — Hamilton

Skjei — Pesce

Gardiner — Fleury

Reimer

Nedeljkovic

How to watch

When: 6:00 p.m.

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV