NHL Preview: Maple Leafs at Blackhawks
Maple Leafs at Blackhawks
The Toronto Maple Leafs were unable to slow down the league’s hottest club and now will try to post their first victory in Chicago in nearly 15 years. The slumping Maple Leafs, losers of eight of 11 (3-4-4) following Monday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado, will look to rebound against the skidding Blackhawks, who are buried in last place in the Central Division.
Chicago started the calendar year by winning three of four and amassing 21 goals, but stumbled badly on its six-game homestand, scoring six times during the 1-4-0 swoon while getting blanked twice during the current three-game slide. “We’ve had games this year where we’ve played great against top-notch teams,” star forward Patrick Kane told reporters. “So we know it’s in here. We know we can be confident, given some of the games we’ve had in the past.” Toronto has lost five of six (1-2-3) but, unlike the Blackhawks, has the luxury of playing in a weak division (Atlantic) and holds a double-digit point cushion for third place. The Maple Leafs halted a five-game losing streak in the series by rallying for a 4-3 overtime win Oct. 9, but have dropped seven in a row in Chicago and last won in the Windy City in February 2003.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVA (Toronto)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (26-18-5): Coach Mike Babcock shuffled his lineup at Tuesday’s practice, splitting up longtime linemates Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov, but said it was only for the next two away from home. “I’m looking to have more balance and more attack, especially on the road when I don’t have last change,” said Babcock, who dropped Komarov to the fourth line and replaced him with Mitch Marner on the second unit. Kasperi Kapanen was recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League and skated on Komarov’s line.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (22-19-6): Chicago certainly wasn’t lacking for chances in Monday’s 2-0 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay, launching 40 shots on goal and failing on six power plays to fall to 0-for-16 with the extra skater on the homestand. “It has to be better, myself included. Myself especially,” defenseman Duncan Keith, who along with captain Jonathan Toews did not practice Tuesday because of a maintenance day, told reporters. Toews scored at Toronto on Oct. 9 but has been held off the scoresheet in five straight.
1. Toronto G Frederik Andersen is 2-2-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average versus Chicago.
2. Blackhawks F Patrick Kane has torched Toronto for 10 goals and 22 points in 14 games.
3. Maple Leafs D Morgan Rielly was placed on injured reserve and is out through the All-Star break.