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Your Sword Versus My Dagger: Blackhawks vs. Avalanche Preview

The Blackhawks look to carry their recent momentum into their match-up with the defending champions.

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Chicago Blackhawks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

For the first time since Oct 23, the Chicago Blackhawks will enter a regular-season game looking to win their third consecutive game. However, extending this streak will be a tall task when they host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Thursday evening.

The Avalanche are currently out of a playoff spot (sixth place in the Central Division), though, and the talented team has lost six of its last seven. Colorado has had a slew of injuries during the season, with key contributors like forwards Valeri Nichushkin and Gabriel Landeskog still sidelined, as are defensemen Bowen Byram and Josh Manson. So is goaltender Pavel Francouz. But one players who’s no longer injured is star forward Nathan MacKinnon, who’s returned to the lineup with five points in five games. But MacKinnon, along with team points leader Miko Rantanen (27 G, 23 A) and stand out blue-liner Cale Makar (10 G, 28 A), are still a force to be reckoned with and will provide the Blackhawks with a heavy workload on Thursday night.

Netminder Alexander Georgiev îs expected to get the start for the Avalanche. Georgiev is 16-11-3 on the season with a .915 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average. That’ll be enough for a challenge for the Hawks, who are expected to be without Patrick Kane once again, who is still battling a lower-body injury.

Petr Mrazek will be starting in goal for the Hawks. His 2-10-1 record is very much indicative of both his play this season, as well as the team in front of him. To be frank, the Hawks will have to put forth a gargantuan effort in their own end if they want to keep this game close to winnable.

Regardless of the numbers, fans know what to expect from Colorado: they’re big, strong, fast and when locked in, can seemingly score at will. If the Hawks let things get out of hand, it could potentially be a long night for Chicago. If nothing else, Lukas Reichel will be someone fans should keep an eye on. He's been exciting so far and could provide some bright spots along the back half of the season.

The Hawks will have to bring a lot of Chelsea Dagger to this battle, otherwise, it’ll be back to the re-runs for Hawks fans.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Avalanche

42.58% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 52.62% (5th)

41.05% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.05% (13th)

2.16 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.90 (25th)

3.66 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.90 (12th)

56.9% (1st) — Faceoffs — 46.1% (28th)

19.8% (23rd) — Power play — 23.7% (13th)

73.5% (24th) — Penalty kill — 74.4% (22nd)

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV

(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)