Headliner showdown: Blackhawks vs Penguins
The Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-1) go into Pittsburgh on Tuesday evening to face the Penguins with a 7-0-1 record in December, and looking to collect their sixth straight road win. Not counting preseason match-ups, Chicago and Pittsburgh usually only face off once per year, so there's always anticipation around their games.
As the Blackhawks continue their hot streak of games, the team has gained a lot of confidence, and it is showing in their play. Solid, consistent effort across all three periods is becoming more frequent, and Sunday night's game saw the fourth line chipping in offensively as well. The team has consistently flirted with the top spot in the league and currently sits atop the pile with 46 points. Tuesday night's game will be the Blackhawks' last road game until January 5th.
Although the Penguins have 10 players injured, it hasn't slowed them down any; Pittsburgh is currently 18-11-4 with 40 points (5th in East). Like last season, while the roster is riddled with injuries, the team continues to produce and win games under coach Dan Bylsma. As is typical for Pittsburgh, they remain high in the standings, even though they've gone 4-4-0 in December, including a decisive 8-3 win over Buffalo last Saturday night.
Headlining the Penguins' injury list is their team captain and league superstar, Sidney Crosby. Interestingly enough, Crosby hasn't played in a game versus Chicago since February 14, 2007, and has never faced off in a PIT vs. CHI game against fellow Team Canada star Jonathan Toews. Although Crosby recently returned to play after several months' absence due to post-concussion issues, he was sidelined again with another injury. Other notable injuries for Pittsburgh include: Kris Letang (broken nose/concussion); Jordan Staal (lower body); Ben Lovejoy (broken wrist); and Dustin Jeffrey (knee).
On the Blackhawks side, forward Dan Carcillo is listed with an upper body injury and did not travel to Pittsburgh; defenseman Brent Seabrook is day to day after taking a hit into the boards in Sunday's game vs. the Calgary Flames.
The Blackhawks have not won against the Penguins in regulation in Pittsburgh since February 22, 1997. The Penguins are 5-0-3 vs. the Hawks in their last eight home games. Can Chicago change that tonight?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Marian Hossa (CHI), who used to play on the Penguins, also has the team high scoring vs the Pens: 11 goals and 32 assists in 38 games vs. Pittsburgh. Hossa currently leads the Blackhawks with 36 points and a +18 rating.
- Patrick Sharp (CHI) is riding a 9-game point streak. Sharp is tied for second in scoring for Chicago along with Jonathan Toews; both players have 35 points.
- Chicago's backup goalie, Ray Emery, has been on a hot streak as well, and hopes to increase his winning streak to six in a row.
- James Neal (PIT) and Evengi Malkin (PIT) are both on a 5-game point streak; Neal is also tied with Jonathan Toews (CHI) for 4th place in goals in the NHL currently, at 18. Malkin leads the Pens in scoring with 36; Neal is second with 32.
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WHERE TO WATCH: Versus; you can also tune in to WGN 720 AM (phone app available for those out of market)