Blackhawks Head to the Garden State to Battle Devils

The Chicago Blackhawks recent stretch of outstanding play came to a screeching halt on Sunday evening when they were pummeled by the Nashville Predators...again...by a score of 6-1. The Blackhawks now look to move past the embarrassment and hope to rebound tonight against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. 

These two teams haven't played one another since November 2010, when the Devils skated away with a 5-3 win at the United Center. Chicago looks to avenge that loss and will have to find away to contain not only star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, but also his American cohort, team captain Zach Parise. 

Despite the recent loss to the Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks are still 7-2-1 in their last ten games. They have played some exceptional hockey of late against some very tough teams at a very tough point in the regular season. As long as they don't allow themselves to slide after this last defeat, they will still be in a good position heading into the post season.

One of the biggest concerns for the Blackhawks for the majority of the season has been their special teams. Neither the penalty kill nor the power play has been very effective all year and in some cases, each has definitely cost them at least a game or two, probably more. 

Yes, the Blackhawks have been able to deal with less than mediocre special teams while still maintaining a playoff spot, but once the post season begins, special teams become more and more essential in order to win games. Currently, Chicago's power play is 23rd out of 30 in the NHL, while their penalty kill is 26th out of 30. The frustrating thing is that those rankings haven't changed much over the course of the season. 

The New Jersey Devils were on a bit of a hot streak of their own some weeks ago, but have cooled off in their most recent bout of games and are 1-3-1 in their last five. The Devils, who are a team known for their defensive prowess, have allowed at least four goals in four of their last five matches. They will be looking to regroup and get back to their typical tight-checking style to smother the Blackhawks potent offense. 

New Jersey, in contrast to the Blackhawks, is the best penalty killing team in the league. Their power play may not be in the top ten, but it's still better than Chicago's man-advantage, sitting at 20th out of 30 teams. The Devils have struggled to score of late, however, and if Chicago can get their offense clicking again after Sunday's drought, they have the advantage heading into this game. 

New Jersey will need Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk to jumpstart the Devils' sputtering offense, while Chicago will need Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa to lead the way offensively for their club. 

Coming into tonight's game, Parise has two goals in his last two games and Kovalchuk has notched four points in his last five games.

Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg both have five points in their last five games for Chicago and hope to maintain that streak against New Jersey. 

Chicago team captain Jonathan Toews remains out indefinitely with concussion like symptoms, as does Marcus Kruger, and defensemen Steve Montador and Sami Lepisto are also out of the Hawks' lineup as of now. Duncan Keith also remains out for Chicago as he continues to serve his five game suspension for his hit on Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. 

New Jersey will be without defenseman Henrik Tallinder and could also miss Anton Volchenkov if he is not ready to go with a lower body injury. 

Corey Crawford looks to get the start again for Chicago, while Marty Brodeur will also most likely start for the Devils. 

Tonight's game will be televised on CSN-Chicago and on MSG Plus at 6 pm CT. 

Follow me on Twitter (@MCBHawks) and be sure to follow TCL Blackhawks on Twitter (@TCLBlackhawks) for updates on Chicago Blackhawks game and roster info.