The Chicago Blackhawks look to continue their hot streak as they face off against the reigning Western Conference Champions San Jose Sharks. The Blackhawks return to the United Center after a three-game road trip that saw them triumph over the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and then the St Louis Blues. This 3-0-0 jaunt continued their solid play of late as it has been two weeks since they have lost in regulation.
The Blackhawks currently sit atop the NHL standings and look to keep rolling Sunday against the Pacific division leaders. One small problem is that the Blackhawks may be without Artem Anisimov as he was injured during last night’s bout with the Blues, and is considered day-to-day. The Sharks will look to take advantage of this as they look for their fifth win in a row to close out their own current road trip. With a roster that has been giving younger players a shot this year, the Sharks hope to have that vibrant youth in their step after the Blackhawks are in the later half of a back-to-back.
San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks
United Center – 6:00 p.m. CT on Sunday, Dec. 18.
Broadcast channels – NHLN, WGN, CSN-CA
2016-17 Season Series:
November 23 – Blackhawks 1 – Sharks 2
Chicago Blackhawks – 21-8-4 – 46 Points
Home Record: 12-2-3
Hot Players: Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa
Key Injuries: Corey Crawford, Artem Anisimov
Artemi Panarin – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman – Andrew Desjardins – Marian Hossa
Dennis Rasmussen – Marcus Kruger – Richard Panik
Tyler Motte – Vinnie Hinostroza – Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell – Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling – Trevor van Riemsdyk
San Jose Sharks – 19-11-1 – 39 Points
Hot Players: B. Burns
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson – Tommy Wingels – Joel Ward
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
1)The Blackhawks have won four straight games and have points in each of their last six games. The Sharks have also won four straight games and are looking to complete their road trip sweep. It should be a closely contested, high-energy game.
2)Artemi Panarin is tied for ninth in the NHL in goals (14), tied for 19th in assists (18), tied for sixth in points (32), and tied for 12th in power play goals (5). He will earn a $1.725M bonus this year by finishing in the top 10 in any category, which would cause an interesting conundrum for the cap-strapped Blackhawks.
3)Brent Burns leads all NHL defensemen with 29 points through 31 games played. He has the most goals amongst defensemen (13) and ranks ninth in assists amongst defensemen (16). The large-bearded, large personality blueliner also leads the team with 133 shots and will be tough for the Blackhawks to contain.
4)Duncan Keith is still without a goal this year after firing 72 shots on net. Despite the failure to find twine, he is only 1 assist behind Parick Kane, who leads the team with 22. Keith also averages over 26 minutes of ice-time per night, making a large impact on every game.
5)Scott Darling has displayed some fatigue in the previous games and initially it looked like he would cede the net to Lars Johansson, while Corey Crawford remains sidelined due to an emergency appendectomy. Scott Darling indeed will continue to start, as he apparently convinced Joel Quenneville that he was ready to play after weathering a pair of four-goal games versus the Islanders and Blues.