The Avalanche head East to play the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in an affair almost guaranteed to be up-tempo and interesting, if recent history is any indication. The Hawks have a comfortable lead over the Avalanche in the division, sporting a healthy 9 point lead. Even with the 3 games in hand, if the Avs would like to retain any real hope of hanging around and maybe stealing the Central this year, 4 point games such as this go a long ways towards not having to rely on the Nashvilles and Dallas's (Dalli?) of the world to beat Chicago near the end of the year.
Each team's record in their past 10 games indicate their overall consistency this season, even when slightly slumping. Chicago sports a 5-1-4 record compared to Colorado's 5-2-3. This also shows how the Blackhawks have built their cushy 9 point advantage while managing to win just 2 more games than Colorado so far (Chicago has 30 Ws to Colorado's 28, with each team having 26 ROWs). Chicago's ability to walk out of the arena with a point despite losing is the sole reason they aren't currently chasing the St. Louis Blues right now (who are 3 points behind with 4 games in hand). While the Blackhawks are 27th in the NHL with a record of 4-10 in games that go beyond regulation, their mere ability to push games that far is something the Avs will have to overcome if they're serious about climbing any higher than 3rd in the division.
Normally a daunting place to play, the Avs seem unfazed by the traditionally raucous Hawks fans of the United Center as the majority of their games in recent years have been highly entertaining and competitive affairs. The presence of about as many Hawks fans at the Pepsi Center as the UC seems to have bred a familiarity with Hawks fans' particular brand of obnoxious that the Avs happily tune out when in Chi-town.
Hopefully the Blackhawks run out Corey Crawford as he has been the anti-Devan Dubnyk against the Avs, posting a 5.39 GAA in his last 4 versus the Avs, culminating in being pulled after giving up 3 goals in Denver just 2 months ago. Of course, having said that means I've doomed the Avs to a 45 shot night in which they get shutout. Send your hate mail to the email link attached to my name <3
As far as injuries go, the Blackhawks only significant injury appears to be backup G Nikolai Khabibulin. I'm not guessing at lines. For anyone interested in taking selfies while making their eyes bleed, visit Second City Hockey for the proper catalyst. Or opposing team coverage. Whichever.