(SportsNetwork.com) – After an up-and-down start to the season, the Chicago
Blackhawks are finally resembling their old dominant selves.
The Blackhawks will aim for a fifth straight victory when they host the
struggling Montreal Canadiens in Friday’s battle at United Center.
Chicago began the season with a 7-6-1 record, but the 2013 Stanley Cup
champions have won nine of 11 games since that mediocre start.
The Blackhawks have outscored the opposition by a combined 15-5 margin during
their current four-game winning streak. Joel Quenneville’s club has won each
of its the last three outings by identical 4-1 scores.
After capping a 5-1-0 road trip with consecutive 4-1 wins in Anaheim and Los
Angeles, the ‘Hawks returned home to win Wednesday’s game against St. Louis by
the same margin. It marked the first meeting between the Blackhawks and Blues
since Chicago claimed last spring’s first-round playoff series in six games.
Kris Versteeg scored and also set up Patrick Kane for two goals, all in the
first 5:19 of Wednesday’s third period, to lead Chicago to the win. Marcus
Kruger had a first-period goal for the Blackhawks before Ian Cole tied the
game for St. Louis in the second period.
It was the fourth straight home win for Chicago, pushing the club’s record in
the Windy City to 8-3-1.
Antti Raanta made 40 saves in his first start since a 3-2 loss at St. Louis on
Oct. 25. Raanta will see his workload increase with No. 1 goaltender Corey
Crawford sidelined 2-to-3 weeks with a left foot injury he suffered when he
missed a step leaving a recent concert.
“I like how he challenged. I think he was comfortable meeting pucks. I thought
he was good finding pucks,” Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said about
Raanta will go again tonight for the Blackhawks in what will be his first
career appearance against the Canadiens.
Chicago has won two straight and three of the last four meetings against
Montreal. The Blackhawks routed the Habs 5-0 in Montreal on Nov. 4 with
Jonathan Toews and Versteeg each posting a goal and an assist for Chicago and
Crawford making 28 saves for a shutout.
The Canadiens have lost four in a row at the United Center. Their last win in
Chicago was on Feb. 27, 2002.
Montreal enters Friday having lost four of its last five games. The Habs are
1-1-0 so far on a four-game road trip, beating Colorado on Monday before
losing Wednesday in Minnesota.
The Canadiens dropped a 2-1 decision to the Wild after getting outshot by a
35-19 margin in the game. Alex Galchenyuk scored Montreal’s only goal, beating
Darcy Kuemper with 58 seconds left in regulation.
Carey Price stopped 33 pucks in defeat, as the Habs fell to 8-5-1 as the road
With Montreal closing its road trip tomorrow night in Dallas, Price is
expected to get a rest from backup Dustin Tokarski either tonight or Saturday
against the Stars.
Price is 3-2-0 with a 2.19 goals against average in his career against
Chicago, while Tokarski has never faced the Blackhawks.
In other news, Chicago forward Patrick Sharp returned to practice Wednesday
for the first time since suffering an injury to his right knee on Nov. 4.
Sharp, who has three goals and six assists in 13 games this season, is
considered day-to-day and isn’t expected to play until next week when Chicago
is on the road.
The Blackhawks kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in Nashville.