The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking for their ninth win in a row on Saturday night as they wrap up a road trip with a date against the New York Islanders.
The game will not only be the last regular season game the Blackhawks will play at the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum (the Islanders will be moving to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn next season), but it will be the first time they’ve had the opportunity to play against former Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy. In 29 games with the Islanders so far this season, Leddy has scored five goals and dished out nine assists, and he’s been a big boost to the team as they fight for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
As for the Hawks, they’ve been rolling lately, and they got some favorable news as they try to keep their winning streak going. Jonathan Toews, who left Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins after hitting the boards head-first on a hit from Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, was given a clean bill of health by team doctors, and he will be in the lineup for Saturday’s game on Long Island.
His health is crucial for the Blackhawks as they try to scrape by with only 12 forwards on the active roster. Jeremy Morin is currently in Rockford on a conditioning assignment, and the Hawks sent Joakim Nordstrom down when Patrick Sharp was activated off of long-term injured reserve Tuesday.
The Blackhawks’ offense could be poised for another big night against the Islanders Saturday, as New York has struggled in a big way to stop opposing offenses in recent games. Over the past three contests, the Islanders have surrendered 17 goals in three consecutive losses, and they’re near the bottom of the league in goals against per game, surrendering an average of 2.9 per contest.
To make matters worse for the Islanders, they also have the league’s worst penalty killing unit, only killing off 71.3 percent of penalties against. The Hawks’ power play hasn’t been good lately, only scoring once in its last 24 attempts, but if there’s a night where guys like Toews and Patrick Kane could help the team potentially break out of its funk, it’s this one.
On one other note, Scott Darling will make his fourth consecutive start for the Blackhawks. While Antti Raanta will probably get the start Sunday night against the Calgary Flames, the writing is on the wall about who the team’s back-up goaltender is when Corey Crawford returns to the lineup. Joel Quenneville isn’t willing to acknowledge it yet, but he clearly trusts Darling more than Raanta at this point, and while the back-up isn’t going to get a lot of games with how well Crawford has been playing, it’s still a bummer for Raanta to likely be back on the road toward Rockford when Crawford returns.