After a 1-4-0 road trip that saw them stumble badly in the playoff race, the Chicago Blackhawks will return home on Wednesday night for an Original Six showdown against the New York Rangers.
The Blackhawks are now eight points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, and will need to turn things around quickly as next week’s NHL trade deadline looms.
The Line (courtesy of Westgate Superbook)
Over/Under: 6.5 goals
The Blackhawks had some bad luck on their road trip through Canada, losing four of five games despite dominating large stretches of play, but they’ll have to try to put that behind them if they have any hope of making a push toward a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons.
A key area of improvement for the Blackhawks would be on their power play, which checks in as the worst in the entire NHL. The Blackhawks could take advantage of a weaker opponent in Wednesday’s game, as the Rangers not only have the league’s third-worst faceoff percentage, but they also rank in the bottom, half of the league on the penalty kill.
Jeremy Colliton and the Blackhawks appear set to shuffle up their power play units again in this game, with Erik Gustafsson playing on the point with Patrick Kane, Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad on the first unit during Tuesday’s practice in Chicago.
NBC 5 Sports Headlines
While the Blackhawks struggled during their Canadian road trip, Jonathan Toews finished things up with a flourish, racking up four points in the team’s final two games.
Overall, Toews has two goals and four assists in his last five games, but the one area of concern for the captain has been his propensity for taking penalties. Before Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg, Toews had taken at least one minor penalty in four consecutive games, and with the Blackhawks’ penalty kill playing better hockey of late, the captain will need to stay out of the penalty box and on the ice for those types of shorthanded situations.
Center David Kampf is currently mired in a nine-game point drought, with just 10 shots on goal in those contests. His time-on-ice has been slashed during that time, going from 15:08 in a Feb. 1 contest against the Arizona Coyotes to a mere 9:37 in Sunday’s loss to the Jets.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks that downturn in Kampf’s play has timed up with a push from Toews and Kirby Dach on the offensive side of things, but the Blackhawks could certainly use some bottom six punch from Kampf moving forward.
The Playoff Hunt:
According to the playoff probability calculator at playoffstatus.com, the Blackhawks have a 12 percent chance of reaching the postseason, news that is certainly unwelcome for a club that has missed the postseason in each of the last two seasons.
Currently the Blackhawks are eight points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference, and although they have three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, they would still have to jump Winnipeg, Nashville and Minnesota as well if they wanted to get back into a playoff spot.
Those numbers are made even more painful by the fact the Blackhawks lost two games to Winnipeg on their most recent road trip, coughing up an opportunity to gain significant ground on a playoff rival.
As things stand now, the Blackhawks have three more games before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, meaning that they’ll soon have to make a tough choice of whether to go for a playoff berth this year or to sell off assets to try to gain salary cap space and prospects for the future.
Puck drop between the Blackhawks and Rangers is set for 7 p.m., and the game will air on NBCSN.