Blackhawks win 3-2 over Islanders; prepare for first back-to-back games
After giving up two goals to the Islanders in the final minute of the first period, Friday night's game was at risk of going the direction of the Blackhawks' last two games.
Coach Joel Quenneville's line blender was on frappé after two tough losses; but the new lines produced.
The scoring started with Blackhawks rookie Joakim Nordström, who tallied his first NHL goal 9:32 into the first period. Jonathan Toews would push the score to 2-0 at 16:05, gathering a rebound off Duncan Keith's shot, which had deflected behind the Islanders' goal.
Josh Bailey would get the Islanders on the scoresheet at 19:06 in the first; Kyle Okposo would follow 49 seconds later to tie up the game at 2-2.
However, the Blackhawks righted the ship, locked down their defense, and got the job done, thanks to Michal Handzus' first goal of the season late in the second.
The Islanders did not get many shots on goal - just 19 (plus 13 A/B and 8 MS), and backup goalie Nikolai Khabibulin collected a win in his first start of the season. Chicago went 54% in the faceoff circle, and had 28 shots on goal, plus 27 A/B and 14 MS.
Chicago's win pushed them up to third place in the Central division.
After the game, the Blackhawks announced they were assigning Jimmy Hayes to the Rockford IceHogs, and calling up center Brandon Pirri.
On Saturday night, the Blackhawks will have their first of 18 back-to-back game nights created by the Olympics-shortened schedule when they host the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center.
Under Coach Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks have put together a winning record in the second half of back-to-back contests; last season, they went 10-1-1 in those games. This weekend's back-to-back will be the only pair with both games played on home ice.
Corey Crawford (2.92 GAA/.890 sv%) is expected to start for the Blackhawks; Buffalo will likely have Ryan Miller (2.36 GAA/.938 sv%) in net.
The frustrated Sabres (0-4-1) are one of two teams that have not yet won a game this season; the other team is the NJ Devils (0-2-3). The two teams have not played each other since January 18, 2012 - a 6-2 win by the Blackhawks on Chicago ice. They will not face each other again until after the Olympic break.
Buffalo is currently averaging just 1 goal per game, and of those, 2 came on the power play. The Sabres are 25th overall on the PP with just 2 goals in 18 opportunities; the Blackhawks have improved to 9th, with 4 in 16.
Thomas Vanek has been their leading scorer, with 2 goals and 2 assists.
The Sabres will be without right winger Patrick Kaleta, who is suspended while awaiting Tuesday's hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety after an incident (illegal check to the head) in Thursday's game versus the Blue Jackets. Ville Leino (ribs), Henrik Tallinder (upper body), and Corey Tropp (jaw) are currently out for the Sabres; Nikita Zadorov is questionable.
Time: Saturday, October 12, 7:00 p.m. CDT
Place: United Center, 1901 W. Madison, Chicago
Where to watch: Chicago: WGN; Buffalo: MSG-B, elsewhere: NHLN-US; radio feed via WGN 720 AM.