Blackhawks-Maple Leafs Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks are down their top two goalies, but that

doesn’t seem to be having any negative effect on their ability to

win games.

The Blackhawks take the league’s hottest offensive attack, and a

three-game winning streak, on the road Saturday night to meet the

struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.

If Chicago stays hot, coach Joel Quenneville could tie former

Toronto coach Pat Quinn for fourth all-time with 684 victories.

Since Quenneville lost No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford to a

lower-body injury Sunday, the Chicago offense has turned it up a

notch to pick up the slack. The team has scored 19 goals in the

past three games, including a 7-2 win over Philadelphia on

Wednesday. It was the most the Blackhawks scored on home ice since

a 2011 playoff win over Vancouver.

“Our talk in the room is more about playing the right way, being

good defensively, being hard on pucks, checking well,” defenseman

Duncan Keith said. “We know our offense is going to take care of

itself if we play that way.”

The Blackhawks (23-6-5) were already without backup goalie

Nikolai Khabibulin, who hasn’t played since Nov. 16 because of a

lower-body injury. Khabibulin remains sidelined, and Crawford is

likely to miss another two weeks.

Rookie Antti Raanta has taken over in net, stopping 93.3 percent

of shots since Crawford was hurt. He made 28 saves against

Philadelphia and improved to 5-0-1 this season with a 2.12

goals-against average.

The recent offensive outburst is just the latest reminder of how

dangerous the Blackhawks can be. They’re averaging an NHL-high 3.68

goals per game, and six players have scored at least 10.

“It’s a credit to our team game,” said Patrick Sharp, who has

four goals and four assists over the past three games. “We know

we’ve got guys in here that can put up big numbers and score goals.

But when we’re playing well in all three zones, that’s when our

offense usually clicks.”

Patrick Kane has been clicking all season and has 14 points

during a seven-game point streak. He had a 12-game run last

month.

Toronto (16-14-3) could be in for a long night against the

aggressive Blackhawks. The Maple Leafs have given up a league-worst

4.10 goals per game since Nov. 25, going 2-6-2, and have

surrendered 14 on the current three-game losing streak.

“We’re obviously going through a tough stretch here, every team

goes through these stretches, and it’s how you react to the

adversity through the tough times that shows the character of your

team,” captain Dion Phaneuf said.

Phaneuf will return Saturday after missing the past two games

because of a suspension following a hit from behind on Boston’s

Kevan Miller on Sunday.

“Well there’s no time to sit around and pout about how the last

10 games have gone – we have to get ready for (Chicago),” he said.

“We don’t have time to sit here and look at the past, we have to

take care of the present and get back to playing the way we have to

play to win hockey games.”

These teams do not play often, but nearly a decade has passed

since the Leafs last beat the Blackhawks. Chicago’s 3-1 home win

Oct. 19 was its eighth consecutive victory in the series since a

3-1 loss Feb. 12, 2003.