With the highest point total in the NHL since Dec. 31, the Colorado Avalanche have worked their way back into the Presidents’ Trophy race.
A sixth win in seven games Wednesday night at home against Chicago would help toward that goal, as it would vault the Avs past the Blackhawks, one of their competitors for the top overall seed.
Colorado (42-18-5) is also after a fourth win in five games against Chicago (38-13-14) as the season series comes to a close, but it’ll have to earn it without right wing P.A. Parenteau and possibly center Paul Stastny.
The Avalanche played with 10 forwards for all but 49 seconds of Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over Winnipeg, as Parenteau went down with a sprained right MCL that will force him to miss at least four weeks.
"We’re not out of the race for the division lead or No. 1 in the NHL," center Matt Duchene told the team’s official website after scoring in OT to give him 12 points in a career-best eight-game point streak. "We’re right there. We just have to keep working hard here. I mean, that’s a character win (Monday). There’s no other way to describe that. Guys just played their hearts out."
Parenteau’s injury, though, left Colorado especially short after beginning the game with Stastny sitting out due to a back injury. Stastny, who has scored in three straight games against Chicago, is expected to miss this contest but could play Friday against Anaheim.
The team recalled Brad Malone and Paul Carey from the AHL to add depth at forward.
"’Don’t try and feel sorry for yourself.’ That is what I said to the guys: ‘Keep going and we’ll win the game,’" said coach Patrick Roy, whose team has a league-best 39 points since New Year’s Eve. "We have to remain positive, that’s for sure, but at the same time, all year we have battled through adversity, and tonight was another example."
Chicago has also been without a top forward, Marian Hossa, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
As with Colorado and Duchene, Jonathan Toews has picked it up in his teammate’s absence, as the Chicago captain has six goals and an assist during a four-game point streak.
Toews scored the third-period winner in a 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Sunday.
"I think he’s returned from the Olympics in great shape, very confident," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He just seems to have the knack, has good pace with it, has the puck a lot as well. And when he’s around the net, he’s getting rewarded."
The Blackhawks have strung together a pair of wins since losing 4-2 at home to Colorado last Tuesday. They’ve allowed 11 goals in seven games, but some offensive inconsistency has limited them to a 4-3-0 record in that span and dropped them behind streaking St. Louis.
The highest-scoring team in the league with 223 goals, Chicago has been held to two or fewer five times in that seven-game stretch. Improved penalty killing has helped the club weather it, as the Blackhawks have denied opponents on 53 of 57 short-handed situations in the last 16 games, including 5 for 5 against the Sabres.
"We’ve been doing really well at getting the puck all the way down the ice, blocking shots," goaltender Corey Crawford told the team’s official website. "It seems just a combination of everything. Everything you need our guys on the (penalty kill) to do we’ve been able to do."
Crawford has started each of the past seven contests and posted a 1.45 goals-against average. He’s struggled against Colorado, though, going 0-4-2 with a 4.38 GAA in his last six matchups.
Counterpart Semyon Varlamov has gone 3-0-0 with a 1.47 GAA in four games against Chicago this season.