Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Hockey

High-scoring Blackhawks host struggling Panthers

The high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks continue to keep pace among the NHL's elite, while a rough six weeks has the Florida Panthers losing their grip in the Southeast Division.

The Blackhawks close out a homestand looking to extend their six-game point streak, while the Panthers try to avoid a fourth straight defeat.

Chicago has gone 4-0-2 in its past six games, netting 20 goals in the four wins, and comes into this contest one point behind the Red Wings for first place in both the NHL and Central Division.

Florida, meanwhile, has gone 5-6-6 since Dec. 9 and now finds itself tied with Washington for the top spot in its division. Both clubs have 52 points.

The Blackhawks matched their highest goal output of the season on Wednesday in a 6-2 victory over the visiting Sabres. Jonathan Toews scored twice to give him a team-high 26 goals and seven points over a five-game point streak, while Marian Hossa logged a goal to extend a six-game point streak that has featured six assists as well.

"Part of our identity as a team is to bring it every single night," said Toews. "We play as a team and try to find a way to win every game."

Helping Chicago do just that has been a pair of impressive rookies in Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes. The duo both finished with a goal and an assist in Wednesday's win to help fill the void left by the injured Patrick Sharp and Daniel Carcillo.

Shaw, a 20-year-old fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks in 2011, has scored a goal in four straight games and has five in eight career games since being recalled from the minors, while Hayes has four goals and three assists over his first 10 NHL contests. The 22-year-old second-round pick of Toronto in 2008 made his debut in the league on Dec. 30.

"They've been real good. Tonight was just one more real solid game from both of them. They made some nice individual plays," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. "[Shaw] continues to be effective in a lot of ways and Hayes finishes off one of the nicest passes we've seen this year."

Corey Crawford allowed two goals on 27 shots to help Chicago win a fourth straight home game.

Florida, meanwhile, failed to hold a lead Wednesday in Colorado, allowing a pair of third-period goals en route to a 4-3 overtime setback. The Avalanche got a game-tying tally from Paul Stastny with 3:17 remaining in the third before Ryan O'Reilly beat Jose Theodore with 65 ticks left in overtime.

Playing in his 600th career game, Stephen Weiss scored his first goal since Dec. 5, while Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky also lit the lamp. Theodore ended with 40 saves.

"When you have a two-goal lead we should get the win, it's very disappointing," said Weiss. "We know how to play in overtime, but we did not cash in on our chances this time."

Florida played without defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who broke his hand in a fight against Boston on Monday and could miss two months of action due to surgery.

The Blackhawks picked up a 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers in Florida on Nov. 3, with Patrick Kane logging the lone tally in the tiebreaker and both Hossa and Toews scoring the regulation goals. Chicago moved to 4-1-1 in its past six in this series, which includes a pair of games in Finland to begin the 2009-10 season.

Jovanovski and Weiss had the goals for the Panthers, who were shut out 4-0 in their last trip to Chicago on March 23, 2011 thanks to 23 saves by Crawford.