Chicago Blackhawks vs Colorado Avalanche 3/8/13

Colorado Avalanche Paul Stastny

Colorado Avalanche Paul Stastny by Matt Boulton

As high as the Chicago Blackhawks have been flying of late they may not need an aircraft to deliver them to tonight’s contest. This may be especially true given their destination is the mile high city of Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche. The initial drop of the puck in the Pepsi Center is scheduled for 9:00ET and the game will be shown nationally on the NHL network.

This is however a wounded group of Hawks, as they will be without star winger Patrick Sharp not only for just this affair, but for the next 3-4 weeks with a separated shoulder. Sharps injury occurred courtesy of a hit by the Avs Ryan O’Byrne on Wednesday night when these 2 teams met in Chicago. Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik missed that game and Andrew Shaw took a Paul Statsny elbow to the head and did not play in the 3rd period. Hossa, Frolik and Shaw are all expected to play tonight. Corey Crawford will be in goal for Chicago.

Wednesday night Chicago net minder Ray Emery made 20 saves in route to the Blackhawks 3-2 victory. Daniel Carcillo scored with less than a minute left in the game to extend the Hawks record setting streak of 24 games to begin a season without a regulation loss. Their record is now 21-0-3 halfway through this strike shortened season and they have won a franchise best ever 11 in a row.

John Mitchell and Matt Duchene got the biscuit past Emery on Wednesday, but Chicago outshot Colorado 32-22 and even out hit them 32-31, an unusual occurrence from a Blackhawks squad known more for its finesse than brawn. The Avs did control the circle winning 25 face offs to the Hawks 22. Colorado was 0-2 on the power play and gave up a short hander to Jonathan Toews during one of them. Chicago ranks 2nd in the NHL on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks first goal came on a power play of their own. They are first in the NHL for goals against average.

It’s hard to pick against a team with those stats who have won 11 straight games and not lost one in regulation for 24 in a row. It is even more difficult considering Colorado (8-10-4) have lost 6 of their last 7. However, I think the time has come. Even with Hossa back in the lineup, the loss of Sharp looms large. Patrick Kane has not played well against Denver with just 1 goal in the last 5 games played against them. Crawford has actually played well in the higher elevation (1.83 GAA), but has lost his last 2 to the Avs allowing 8 goals in the process. Both of those were played in Chicago. It’s hard to actually say it, but I like Colorado at home in this one.

Free Pick: Colorado Avalanche

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