After waiting for weeks, the Blackhawks will finally get their No. 1 goaltender back in between the pipes Friday night in Chicago. Corey Crawford, who underwent an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, is slated to return against the Colorado Avalanche, who have struggled as of late. In 20 games this season, Crawford has compiled a 12-6-2 record with a 2.20 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
The Avalanche and Blackhawks are sitting on opposite sides of the standings this season with the Blackhawks tied for first place in the league in points, and the Avalanche sitting safely in last. Games within the division often have big standings implications, and while the Blackhawks would love to earn the two points heading into the break, the Avalanche wouldn’t figure to get much of a boost in the standings from a victory. They would, however, get a huge confidence boost by heading into Chicago after suffering two consecutive shutouts and leaving with a victory. This game is exactly the type of turning point team’s look for when making season comebacks; whether or not the Avalanche have what it takes to do so, however, cannot be determined until the puck drops at the United Center tonight.
Colorado Avalanche at Chicago Blackhawks
United Center – 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Dec. 23
Broadcast channels – CSN Chicago, ALT
2016-17 Season Series:
Nov 3 – Avalanche 0 – Blackhawks 4
Colorado Avalanche – 11-20-1 – 23 points
Away Record: 7-9-0
Key Injuries/Absences: Erik Johnson, Joe Colborne, Semyon Varlamov
Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan Mackinnon-Miko Rantanen
Mikhail Grigorenko-Matt Duchene-Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau-John Mitchell-Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen-Carl Soderberg-Cody McLeod
Fedor Tyutin-Tyson Barrie
Patrick Wiercioch-Nikita Zadorov
Francois Beauchemin-Eric Gelinas
Chicago Blackhawks – 22-9-4 – 48 Points
Home Record: 13-3-3
Hot Players: Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith
Key Injuries: Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov
Artemi Panarin-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Vinnie Hinostroza-Tyler Motte
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger -Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell-Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling-Trevor van Riemsdyk
1)Corey Crawford returns for the Chicago Blackhawks after missing a few weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. While Scott Darling did his part to keep the Blackhawks alive in his absence and excelling, for the most part, having Crow back will be a huge boost to the team’s confidence moving into the break.
2)The Blackhawks won five straight games prior to dropping a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at home. They’ll look to get back into the win column Friday when they take on the struggling Colorado Avalanche who have scored just one goal in their last three games and have been shutout in their last two.
3)Artem Anisimov was placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury against the St. Louis Blues and missing the Blackhawks’ last two games. Tanner Kero has been called up as a result and is set to center the team’s fourth line.
4)While the Blackhawks haven’t dealt with too many injuries, they’ve been key, as head coach Joel Quenneville described. This is again the case as Marian Hossa is also set to miss the game against Colorado with an upper body injury. The veteran suffered the injury against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
5)Avalanche’ forward Nathan MacKinnon recently stated that the team has “no chemistry.” The season struggles that the last-place Avalanche are suffering are taking a toll on the players’ mindsets and attitudes heading into 2017.
Despite the injuries to both Hossa and Anisimov, getting Crawford back in net will be a huge boost to the team’s morale as they head into the break. The Blackhawks may have a seemingly easy matchup against the Avalanche on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll come out of the game with a win. Divisional matchups are always tricky, and any team has a chance of winning on any given night. For the Avalanche, winning on the road in Chicago heading into the break would be a huge confidence builder. For the Blackhawks, losing to the Avalanche given the trajectory of both teams’ seasons would be worrying.