|4:30 PM PT5:30 PM MT6:30 PM CT7:30 PM ET0:30 GMT8:30 5:30 PM MST7:30 PM EST4:30 UAE (+1)19:30 ET21:30 BRT, February 22, 2019
United Center, Chicago, Illinois Attendance: 21,653
Improving Avs visit Chicago for pivotal battle
Colorado Avalanche at Chicago Blackhawks
- The Blackhawks have won both games against the Avalanche this season, 2-1 and 3-2 in overtime. The Avalanche had won four of five last season, holding the Hawks to just nine goals.
- The Avalanche defeated the Jets on Wednesday, 7-1, scoring a season-high five goals in the third period. They scored two goals in the first 1:10 of the third period, their fastest two goals from the start of any period since December 23, 1997 vs. Los Angeles (two goals in first 1:09 of second period).
- The Blackhawks have won 10 of their last 12 games dating back to January 20, the fourth-best record in the NHL since then. They are averaging 4.92 goals in that span, best in the NHL.
- Gabriel Landeskog lit the lamp and added an assist in the win over Winnipeg, his first multi-point game since February 7. He has totaled 16 points in 20 games since January 1 after tallying 17 points in 14 games in December.
- Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 19 games by scoring two goals in Chicago's win over Detroit, including the game-winner in overtime. He now has six game-winning goals this season, tied for the second most in a single season in his career behind 2015-16 (nine).
- Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each have 77 points this season -- their 154 combined points are the third most by a teammate duo in the NHL. Chicago's Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat are right behind at 153 combined points.
- Sharks edge Vegas in 2OT to force Game 7
- Bruins win in Toronto to force Game 7
- Capitals' Oshie likely out for playoffs
- Flyers remove controversial Smith statue
- Caps try to close out series at Carolina
The Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks each will go for their third consecutive victory when they face off Friday night on the Blackhawks' home ice.
Both teams are tied with 61 points in the Western Conference standings, although Colorado has a game in hand. Players from both sides know the matchup can affect the playoff picture with one-quarter of the regular season to go.
Colorado (25-24-11) is coming off back-to-back wins over the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets. The Avalanche have bounced back from an eight-game winless streak to collect six of eight possible points since Feb. 14.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been instrumental to the turnaround. The 30-year-old Russian has allowed only four goals in his past four starts, stopping 120 of 124 shots (.968 save percentage) in the process.
For the season, Varlamov is 16-15-8 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
"When you know you're getting that type of goaltending, it just allows your team to play and play confident and aggressive," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said to the Denver Post. "It's a huge difference in our hockey team over the last couple weeks, knowing we're getting that goaltending."
Chicago (26-26-9) also believes it has a realistic shot at the postseason thanks to a remarkable second-half surge. The Blackhawks are coming off back-to-back wins against the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings, giving them 10 wins in 12 games.
If anyone can challenge Varlamov's recent hot streak, it is Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. The 12th-year veteran has a 19-game point streak, which is the longest in the NHL this season. He now has the two longest point streaks ever by a U.S.-born player, including his career-high, 26-game point streak during the 2015-16 campaign.
Kane did not record an assist, ending his 17-game assist streak, which is tied for the third-longest in NHL history. But he did score twice, including the game-winner in overtime.
The Avalanche counter with a couple of top scorers in Gabriel Landeskog (31 goals) and Nathan MacKinnon (30).
MacKinnon reached the 30-goal milestone for the second straight season Wednesday against Winnipeg. That made him only the third Avalanche player to post back-to-back, 30-goal campaigns since the franchise moved to Colorado for the 1995-96 season, joining Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk.
The Blackhawks have two options in net: Cam Ward (14-9-4, 3.69 GAA, .894 save percentage) and Collin Delia (6-3-3, 3.43 GAA, .912 save percentage). Both netminders have split time with Corey Crawford sidelined by a concussion.
First-year coach Jeremy Colliton said his players could not afford to relax because of their recent success.
"Still need to work on our game," Colliton said to the Chicago Tribune. "(Our) game isn't where it needs to be for us to compete in the playoffs, and we're going to have to play better to get the points we need coming down the stretch. We keep finding a way to do it, and that's a credit to the character we have in our group that they find ways to do it no matter what."
This is the third of five regular-season meetings between the Blackhawks and Avalanche this year. Chicago has won each of the first two contests, a 2-1 victory Dec. 21 and a 3-2 victory in overtime Dec. 29. Both of those games took place in Denver.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 21, 2019