Blackhawks begin annual Western road trip; plans for "NHL Revealed" announced
The Blackhawks (14-3-4) kick off their annual two-week "circus trip" today as they head out on a road trip that will take them to all four Canadian Western conference teams. They will also visit Colorado, Phoenix, and Dallas instead of their usual Thanksgiving weekend swing through California.
First up on the trip is Tuesday night's match at the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs held one of the top spots in the West for most of the early season, but have since lost their past three games and are now 14-5-0 with 28 points, which puts them 4th in the Central, and 2nd in the Western wild card race.
Matt Duchene was injured in Saturday night's game vs Florida, and is expected to miss "at least a week" of play, including Tuesday's game vs the Blackhawks. This week, the Avs put Ryan Wilson (back) and Alex Tanguay (knee) on IR; Tyson Barrie and Brad Malone were recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters to the NHL.
New Colorado head coach Patrick Roy is off to a solid start in his first NHL coaching season; his team started the season 15-2-0, with only one of those games going to overtime.
This summer at the Blackhawks Convention, goalie Corey Crawford was asked if the fact that Patrick Roy, his childhood idol, now coach of the Avs, would bring another level of interest to games versus Colorado. Crawford said it would make the games "special", and that he hoped to have a chance to finally get to meet Roy.
Chicago also placed a player on LTIR this week ahead of the Western road trip - goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was injured in Saturday's game at Nashville.
In his place, Finnish goaltender Antti Raanta was called up from the Rockford IceHogs. Raanta has been 7-5-0 in 14 games played for Rockford, with 2.83 GAA and .914 sv%. Raanta has been a fast learner on North American ice after a slightly rough showing in a pre-season game versus the Capitals. He was 21-10-11 with 1.85 GAA/.943 sv% in the regular season and 12-4-4 with 1.33/.955 sv% in the playoffs for Ässät Pori en route to winning the league championship for SM-liiga last season. He also collected several awards for his last season in the SM-liiga, including the Urpo Ylönen Award (best goaltender), the Jari Kurri Award (Best Player in Playoffs), and the Lasse Oksanen Award (Best Player of Regular Season).
Kris Versteeg returned to the Blackhawks this weekend; he has already collected a goal and two assists in two games. He had just two goals and five assists in 18 games with the Panthers.
The Blackhawks regard the annual November road trip as a chance for solid team bonding. But even more than that, Chicago often plays some of their best hockey on the road - away from their home crowd, they usually return to simpler, less showy hockey.
Sunday night at home, the Blackhawks had one of their best games of the year, collecting a solid 5-1 win over the Sharks. The win also put Chicago into first place in the league, just ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, who also have 32 points.
Game info: Tuesday, November 19, at 8:00 p.m. CST, 7:00 p.m. MST, at the Pepsi Center, Denver, CO.
Viewing info: CSN-Chicago and AltitudeTV in Denver; listen via WGN 720 AM.
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On Monday, the NHL announced that in addition to the Winter Classic-centric "24/7" on HBO, they will be filming "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other", which will run on NBCSN from January 22nd through March 13th. "NHL Revealed" will cover those teams participating in the four 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games and the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic. Additionally, the 7-episode series will follow players from those teams to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are expected to participate as the focus players of the Blackhawks coverage.
The Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field for one of the Stadium Series games on March 1st.