A pair of struggling teams will try to end losing streaks tonight, as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center.
The Blackhawks have scored just two goals during a three-game slide and have compiled a poor 4-11-1 record over their last 16 trips to the ice. As a result of that extended slide, Chicago has fallen into a tie with San Jose for the sixth seed in the West, where the Blackhawks are eight points behind fifth- seeded Nashville.
Toronto, meanwhile, has lost a season-high five straight games and is just 1-8-1 over its last 10 contests. The Maple Leafs, who haven't qualified for the postseason since 2004, are currently 10th in the East and three points out of the conference's eighth seed.
Chicago's most recent setback came Sunday in Anaheim, as the Ducks used a goal and an assist from Teemu Selanne to down the Blackhawks, 3-1.
Patrick Kane scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks, who were also shut out on Saturday in a 4-0 setback at Los Angeles. Ray Emery made 35 saves for Chicago.
The Blackhawks held the lead for a brief time in Sunday's loss, but Andrew Cogliano tied the game for Anaheim with just 20 seconds left in the opening period. Chicago was held scoreless the rest of the way, as the Ducks outshot the Blackhawks by a 26-9 margin over the final 40 minutes.
"I think after the first, they pretty much dominated us in the second there and got a lot more shots than we did," Kane said.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who leads the team with 29 goals, will miss a fifth straight game tonight with an upper-body injury that is believed to be a concussion. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has sat out the last three games with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight.
However, tonight will mark the debut of the newest Blackhawk, as defenseman Johnny Oduya is ready to join Chicago after coming over Monday in a trade with Winnipeg. Oduya was acquired for two picks (2nd and 3rd round) in the 2013 draft and has two goals and 11 assists in 63 games this season.
Chicago is playing one game at home tonight before heading back out for a three-game road trip. The Blackhawks are 21-7-4 as the host this season compared to a 12-17-3 record on the road.
The Blackhawks have dominated the recent series with Toronto, posting wins in the last six meetings with their Original Six rivals. The Maple Leafs have also dropped two in a row and four of their last seven games in the Windy City.
Toronto went winless (0-3-1) on a recent four-game homestand and will now play two straight on the road, where the Maple Leafs are 13-15-2 this season.
The Leafs played Tuesday evening against Florida and were dealt a 5-3 loss by the first-place Panthers, who scored just 13 seconds into the game and led the rest of the way.
Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Joffrey Lupul lit the lamp for the Leafs, while James Reimer allowed five goals on 23 shots in the setback.
"There is no excuse," Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek told his team's official website. "We need results and we need results now and our season is on the line here. We've shown at times here that we are a playoff-capable team. We're still in it despite the last couple of weeks, so we've just got to get the job done."
Toronto will complete its brief swing with Saturday's game in Montreal.