CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks are once again starting to re-establish their footing within the cozy home confines of the United Center. The New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, are struggling to establish theirs on the road.
The Devils have dropped five straight games away from home after Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg. It's a streak they hope to snap on Thursday night when they face the Blackhawks in Chicago's second straight home game following two weeks on the road.
New Jersey (10-7-5) couldn't bounce back from a two-goal deficit against the Jets, which added to the Devils' traveling woes. Despite Miles Wood scoring his first NHL goal and fellow rookie Nick Lappin adding another, New Jersey came up short and dropped to 3-7-3 on the road this season.
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Despite again coming up empty, coach John Hynes didn't question his team's effort.
“I think it shows a resilient group,” Hynes told reporters after the loss. “The thing is, you don't want to be down in games, chasing games, but I think the belief in how we play and that we can come back is important. That is also a part of the game where you have to have some belief, and we have that, but we'd like to put ourselves in situations where we have a lead more often than not.”
Like the Devils, the Blackhawks will be coming off a razor-thin result after they slipped past the Florida Panthers 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday night. Richard Panik netted a goal in regulation and another in the shootout for Chicago, which also received 38 saves from Corey Crawford in regulation and overtime before he stopped both Florida shots in the shootout.
The victory, which was clinched by Artemi Panarin's shootout goal, was Chicago's sixth this season past regulation and came in the Blackhawks' first game at home since Nov. 13.
The win came after the Blackhawks finished their seven-game road swing with a 1-1-1 mark in the final three contests.
It also marked the third straight game the Blackhawks played without captain Jonathan Toews, who remains sidelined with an upper body injury. The Chicago Tribune reported Toews is suffering from a back injury that isn't serious, but will keep Toews off the ice likely until Saturday when the Blackhawks face the Flyers in Philadelphia.
“It's tough to say without him being on the ice when he'll be playing,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters Tuesday night. “We'll play it day by day. Jonny wants to be out there in the worst way so we'll do everything we can to get him back.”
In the meantime, the Blackhawks (15-6-3) will look to continue playing well at home, where they are 9-1-2 this season. Even without Toews, Chicago continues to rely on strong play in net from Crawford and hopes the momentum of Tuesday night's victory – coupled with New Jersey's recent road struggles – will add up to another strong showing now that the Blackhawks are back home in familiar surroundings.
“It was a long trip and at the end we played pretty good,” Panik told reporters Tuesday night. “Now we're back home and we won so it's a good feeling.”