The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t panicking after dropping three
consecutive games. A chance to face an Eastern Conference team,
especially one they’ve dominated lately, might get them back on
Chicago will try to add to its 7-0-2 record against the East
this season by earning a fifth straight win over the Florida
Panthers on Sunday night.
After suffering back-to-back regulation defeats, the Blackhawks
(20-6-5) fell 3-2 in a shootout against Anaheim on Friday.
“Frustrating. You can’t overreact to it,” captain Jonathan Toews
said of the slide. “You just have to keep improving on the little
things we do well as a team, and know that if keep working, we’ll
eventually get the breaks.”
Chicago will try to bounce back by remaining the NHL’s only team
without a regulation defeat in interconference play. The
Blackhawks, though, haven’t faced an East opponent since beating
Ottawa 6-5 on Oct. 29.
That victory came one week after a 3-2 shootout win in Florida.
Chicago blew a two-goal lead in the third period of that game
before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored in the shootout.
The Blackhawks could get some help from a former Panther in this
game, Kris Versteeg. The winger returned to Chicago in a
four-player deal that sent Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes to Florida
on Nov. 14.
Versteeg’s goal late in the second period of Friday’s game
allowed the Blackhawks to collect their first point in three
contests, and he also had an assist. He has two goals and five
assists in 12 games with Chicago.
Olsen and Hayes have also started to produce for Florida. The
two players each scored in a 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Thursday that
ended a three-game skid, and Hayes scored another goal while Olsen
had an assist in a 2-1 win in Detroit on Saturday.
The Panthers outshot the Red Wings 28-14 in the final two
periods while bouncing back from an early 1-0 deficit.
”When the other team scores the first goal, we usually
struggle, kind of back on our heels,” said Jonathan Huberdeau, who
scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period. ”But we were able
to get the tying goal.”
The Panthers (9-16-5) will try to notch a season-high third
straight victory by earning their first win over Chicago since
March 8, 2011. The Blackhawks are also 6-1-1 in the last eight
matchups with Florida.
Chicago, though, could use better penalty killing to extend that
success. The Blackhawks have given up five goals the last 11 times
they’ve been short-handed.
Chicago’s power play has been effective, however, in the last
four games, going 4 for 15. Florida also has four goals in its last
15 opportunities with a man advantage but has allowed eight
power-play goals in its past 26 times penalty kills.
Chicago might get forward Andrew Shaw back on the ice after a
two-game absence due to an upper-body ailment. Shaw had four goals
and two assists in the six games before suffering his injury.
Shaw has one assist in his two career games against Florida
while two of Chicago’s stars have shined in recent matchups.
Patrick Kane has five goals and six assists during a seven-game
point streak versus the Panthers, and Toews has three goals and
three assists in his last four meetings.
Chicago hasn’t lost four straight since an 0-8-1 skid Jan.
21-Feb. 14, 2012.