Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview

Scoring chances have been abundant for the Chicago Blackhawks during their longest homestand of the season, but their inability to cash in more often has left points on the board in their pursuit of hosting a first-round playoff series.

They didn’t have any success attempting to solve Semyon Varlamov last month at the United Center.

The Blackhawks look to take advantage of their opportunities this time while avoiding a fourth straight home loss to the last-place Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

Chicago (35-18-5) has earned at least a point in seven straight and sits three back of second-place St. Louis in the Central Division. The Blackhawks have outshot four of five opponents to begin an eight-game homestand, but they’ve gone 2-0-3 in that stretch.

They dominated a good portion of the first 30 minutes against Detroit on Wednesday but never held a lead and fell 3-2 in a shootout. Despite plenty of chances, the Blackhawks failed on all four power-play opportunities and are 3 for 18 with the man advantage on the homestand.

Chicago has converted on 6.7 percent of its shots over the last five, and its 8.3 shooting percentage on the season is among the worst in the NHL.

"When you can battle back and get points, it’s not a bad thing necessarily," said forward Patrick Kane, whose 63 points are among the most in the league. "It’s never fun losing, but at this point in the year you’re trying to look for positives. We’ll try to get better and win some games here and hopefully finish off this (home stretch) strong."

Brandon Saad scored to give him two goals and three assists in a four-game point streak, and Kris Versteeg scored for the second time in three games.

”There’s a lot of building blocks to build upon here,” Versteeg said. ”Just keep going forward. There’s a lot of games coming up and (we’ll) try to string together a few wins again.”

Chicago’s 54 shots against Colorado on Jan. 6 were its most in more than five years, but Varlamov frustrated the Blackhawks while setting a career high for saves in a 2-0 victory. He’s posted a 1.30 goals-against average while starting each contest during the Avalanche’s three-game winning streak at the United Center.

Varlamov has won five straight starts overall with a 1.38 GAA against the Blackhawks, who took the first two meetings this season in Colorado with rookie backup Calvin Pickard starting both for the Avalanche.

Varlamov has gone 6-6-2 with a 2.35 GAA while starting 14 straight for Colorado (24-23-11), which has dropped five of seven after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Los Angeles that completed a 2-2-0 homestand.

Gabriel Landeskog scored in a career high-tying fourth consecutive game with an even-strength goal for the Avalanche, 1 for 38 on the power play in their last 13 after coming up empty on three attempts against the Kings.

"I think we move forward with that effort," forward Matt Duchene said. "There is a lot to be happy with. A lot to hold our heads high with. We’re going to forget about this one, like we have been forgetting about our wins. We just have to move on and focus on Chicago now."

Corey Crawford will reportedly start in net for the Blackhawks. He’s gone 2-5-2 with a 3.51 GAA in his last nine against the Avalanche.