As the Toronto Maple Leafs become more comfortable with their new-look roster, the established Chicago Blackhawks are dealing with one of their worst stretches of the season.
The defending Stanley Cup champions attempt to end a frustrating homestand on a high note against the transitioning Maple Leafs on Monday night.
Among the NHL's most dominant home teams, Chicago (36-18-5) has dropped the first three of its current residency to match its longest losing streak this season. After opening the stand with two-goal defeats to San Jose and Dallas, the Blackhawks managed to earn a point despite being outshot 44-23 in Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim.
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Chicago, which began the calendar year with seven straight home wins and hasn't gone winless on a homestand of at least four games since February 2003, has scored only four times during the skid and has struggled when short-handed. It's killed 2 of 6 penalties, with the Ducks recording the game-winner following a too many men on the ice call.
''We just haven't quite had the speed and the momentum, that jump that we've been looking for,'' captain Jonathan Toews said. ''(Saturday) was a little bit better, but I think top to bottom, all four lines need to be better.''
Those lines will need to be juggled some with Marian Hossa unlikely to play due to a left leg injury the veteran forward sustained during Saturday's second period.
''We don't think it's serious. He could miss some time,'' coach Joel Quenneville said.
Injuries have been nothing new for Toronto (20-25-9), currently without four of its top forwards in James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul. It's also minus a captain after trading defenseman Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa on Tuesday, the first of several possible moves prior to the Feb. 29 deadline.
A lineup comprised partly of castoffs and youngsters came together nicely on Saturday, as the Leafs dominated Vancouver 5-2 to stop a three-game slide and register their first win since the Phaneuf deal. Journeyman Mark Arcobello scored twice in his third game back from a minor league recall and 21-year-old Brendan Leipsic had one in his first NHL game in place of Kadri.
“This is a hard league to play in,” said Arcobello, who's been on five teams over the past two seasons. “When you get an open door, you've got to take advantage of it . . . You never know when you're going to get a chance again.”
After allowing 15 goals over the first three of their five-game trip, the Maple Leafs gave James Reimer a relatively easy night by outshooting the Canucks 38-19.
Toronto does possesses the NHL's worst power play at 14.6 percent and is 2 for 49 in its last 15 games. The Blackhawks were 1 for 21 over a six-game stretch before Brent Seabrook scored one of his two goals against Anaheim on the advantage.
Chicago also received a bounce-back effort from Corey Crawford, who had 41 saves two days after permitting four in the first period of a 4-2 loss to Central Division-leading Dallas. He owns a 2.95 goals-against average over his last five outings after posting a 1.58 mark in winning 10 of his previous 12.
With Crawford having started all six games since the All-Star break, Quenneville could turn to Scott Darling, who made 28 saves to support Patrick Kane's hat trick in a 4-1 win at Toronto on Jan. 15.
Chicago has won 10 of 12 in the series and five straight matchups at United Center, where Toronto last won on Feb. 12, 2013.