NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, December 14th
(All times Eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (23-6-5) at Toronto Maple Leafs (16-14-3), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks and their red-hot offense will
try to keep rolling Saturday in Toronto, as the struggling Maple Leafs host an
Original Six clash at Air Canada Centre.
Chicago opened December on a three-game losing streak, but the Blackhawks have
since won three straight in convincing fashion to give them nine victories
over their past 12 games.
After notching consecutive 6-2 wins against Florida and Dallas, the Blackhawks
slammed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers by a 7-2 score on Wednesday. Chicago
hadn't scored at least six goals in three straight games since doing so from
Jan. 21-24, 1993 -- all 6-2 wins (vs. Washington, Hartford and Vancouver).
Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw scored within a 39-second span, fueling a five-
goal second-period outburst which sent Chicago to an easy win over the Flyers
at United Center.
Michal Handzus, Kris Versteeg and Jonathan Toews also scored in the deciding
period for the Blackhawks. Antti Raanta picked up the win with 28 saves, as
Chicago boosted its NHL-best point total to 51 and its league-high goal total
"I don't think it's something we ever talk about, it's just that silent, quiet
confidence knowing that we have the ability to score goals and generate
offense," Keith said of the team's prolific scoring pace.
Beginning with tonight's tilt in Toronto, the Blackhawks are playing two of
their next three games away from the Windy City. Chicago has been solid at
both home and on the road this season, posting an 11-2-4 at United Center and
a 12-4-1 record everywhere else.
Chicago will try to continue its recent dominance of the Maple Leafs on
Saturday. The Blackhawks have won eight straight in this series since Toronto
last picked up a road win on Feb. 12, 2003 in the Second City. Chicago has
claimed four straight on the road against the Leafs, who last won at home
against the Blackhawks on Dec. 1, 2001.
Toronto enters Saturday's matchup having lost its previous three games in
regulation and the Leafs are just 2-6-2 over their past 10 trips to the ice.
While Chicago has outscored the opposition by a 19-6 margin during its three-
game winning streak, the Maple Leafs have lost their last three tilts by a
combined total of 14-6.
Toronto's latest setback came on Thursday when the St. Louis Blues recorded a
6-3 home win over the Leafs. David Backes scored twice and St. Louis used an
early three-goal barrage to take down Toronto at Scottrade Center.
Nazem Kadri, Nikolai Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk tallied for the Leafs.
James Reimer started in net, but was chased after giving up three goals on 15
shots in less than one period. Jonathan Bernier finished the contest with 18
"It looked like we were brain dead in a lot of areas," Maple Leafs head coach
Randy Carlyle stated bluntly.
Perhaps a proliferation of home dates over the next few weeks can help Toronto
get back on track. Beginning with tonight, the Leafs are scheduled to play
three of four, six of eight and eight of their next 11 games on home ice.
Toronto is 10-7-0 at Air Canada Centre this season and 6-7-3 as the guest.
The Leafs could also get a boost Saturday from the return of Dion Phaneuf to
the lineup. The club's star defenseman completed a two-game suspension on
Thursday for boarding Boston's Kevan Miller last Sunday.
Phaneuf leads Toronto's blue line with two goals and is second among the
team's defensemen in points with 12. Cody Franson is pacing the Maple Leafs in
scoring from the back end with 15 points on a goal and 14 assists.
12/14 10:25:24 ET