Jonathan Toews wouldn’t use fatigue as the convenient excuse for the Chicago Blackhawks’ latest performance, but a couple days of rest might help them have a better showing on their lengthy road trip.
Getting back in the win column Wednesday night, however, could prove a more difficult challenge, given the Colorado Avalanche’s resurgence and the Blackhawks’ recent results in the series.
Following its most fruitful stretch of the season, Chicago seemed to run out of gas in a 4-1 loss to Vancouver on Sunday. In their third game in four nights, the Blackhawks (12-8-1) gave up three goals in the third period after allowing eight in that period in their first 20 contests.
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They got only Kris Versteeg’s power-play tally at the other end of the ice after scoring 17 times in three consecutive victories. That win streak included the first two of the six games on their annual circus trip.
"It was a busy week, but we’ve played three games in four nights before. Everyone’s done that. It’s no excuse," Toews said.
The Blackhawks will try to cut down on those miscues when they face an Avalanche team that appears to have finally shaken off a slow start. After tying a franchise record with 52 wins in 2013-14 while finishing atop the Central Division, Colorado dropped 13 of its first 17 games this season.
The Avalanche have won four of five since a 6-0 drubbing at the New York Islanders on Nov. 11 – their most-lopsided defeat of the season – and some late heroics have played a significant role.
Colorado (8-9-5) has outscored opponents 7-1 in the third period in its last four wins and used a pair of goals in that period to force overtime in Arizona on Tuesday. Daniel Briere finished off a 4-3 comeback victory with his second goal in three games, and captain Gabriel Landeskog scored twice to end an 11-game drought.
"We were resilient. I think that’s the story of the night," said coach Patrick Roy, whose team trailed 3-0 after the first 11 minutes.
The Avalanche started heading in the right direction with a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Rangers on Nov. 13 and scored the deciding goal in the final three minutes in wins over New Jersey and Carolina.
Colorado will next seek a season-high third consecutive victory and a fourth straight over Chicago. The last three matchups have been decided by a combined four goals.
The Avalanche have won eight of the past 11 meetings at the Pepsi Center and took both games there last season.
With No. 1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov out (groin), Colorado is expected to give Calvin Pickard his second career start. Pickard, 2-2-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in four appearances, stopped all 25 shots he faced after replacing Reto Berra in the first period Tuesday.
Corey Crawford, 9-5-1 with a 1.98 GAA, is slated to start for the Blackhawks. He’s 0-4-2 with a 4.38 GAA in his last six starts against the Avalanche.
Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie had three goals and four assists in last season’s series, his most goals and points against any opponent in 2013-14. Ryan O’Reilly has three goals and two assists during Colorado’s current win streak in the series.
Matt Duchene has six goals and 12 assists in his last 13 matchups.
The status of Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is unclear for this game after he was forced to leave in overtime Tuesday. Andrew Shaw (upper body) could return for Chicago after missing three straight contests.