Blackhawks return home to battle Avs
(SportsNetwork.com) - While the scene many not be worthy of a postcard, the Chicago Blackhawks return to the United Center for the first time in over five weeks on Tuesday night as they clash with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blackhawks last game inside its arena came back on Jan. 26. Chicago played its final six games before the Olympic break on the road, then came out of the hiatus with an away game against the New York Rangers.
The 'Hawks then kicked off a span of three straight as the hosting club on Saturday, but that game was played outdoors at Soldier Field versus the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the NHL's "Stadium Series."
Playing amid a snowfall, the Blackhawks got two goals and an assist from Jonathan Toews in a 5-1 victory that snapped a two-game slide.
Corey Crawford battled the elements to post 31 saves, while Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist. Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell added tallies.
"It was exciting for us as players to be a part of this and play at Solider Field," Toews said. "I think as a team we're super happy we were able to find a way to win."
Chicago is tied with the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division with 86 points, three ahead of third-place Colorado.
While the Blackhawks return to the United Center, they do so without forward Marian Hossa in the lineup. He is expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks of action with an upper-body injury suffered versus the Penguins.
The 35-year-old Hossa has 24 goals and 26 assists in 57 games this season.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, are looking to keep the pressure on the Blackhawks and Blues while also building their eight-point edge over the Minnesota Wild for the third and final automatic playoff bid in the division.
Colorado has won three of four and seven of its last 10 games, picking up a second victory in a row with Sunday's 6-3 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Defenseman Nick Holden scored twice during a four-goal third period, while fellow blueliner Erik Johnson also tallied in the frame. Paul Stastny, Tyson Barrie and Ryan O'Reilly finished with goals as well and Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves.
"I think that's huge for us. They are a good hockey club and one of the top teams in the East and for us to get a win like that, it just gives us momentum," noted O'Reilly. "It's especially nice after tonight in the first period and they came back and then there in the second and we took control in the third. It's a good win for us."
Nathan MacKinnon had two assists, giving him at least one point in 11 straight games. MacKinnon has five goals and 11 assists during the longest point streak by an NHL rookie since Stastny's record 20-game run from Feb. 3-March 17, 2007.
The Avalanche have won two of three over the Blackhawks this season and six of the last nine encounters overall.
Varlamov is 5-3-0 with a 2.25 goals against average in nine games versus the Blackhawks, while Crawford has gone 2-5-2 with a 3.40 GAA when squaring off against the Avs.