The Chicago Blackhawks face their toughest test of 2017 tonight when they visit a streaking Washington Capitals outfit
Tonight in the nation’s capital, two of the NHL’s top point earners so far this season meet up. The Chicago Blackhawks and their Central Division-leading 59 points will visit the Washington Capitals and their Metropolitan Divison-second-place 59 points.
These teams have already met once this season, with the Capitals taking a 3-2 overtime decision in Chicago last November. Even though we’re around the halfway point of the season (tonight’s game is the 42nd for Washington), this game is important for both teams.
The Blackhawks saw the Minnesota Wild close their Central Division deficit to two points with four games in hand by way of a 7-1 thumping of Montreal on Thursday. The Capitals, meanwhile, are trying to hold serve in the Metropolitan, which hosts the 60-point Columbus Blue Jackets and 57-point Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.
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The most noticeable storyline here is win streaks. While this is no 14-game streak of Columbus versus 12-game streak of Minnesota, but Washington comes in on a seven-game run, and the Blackhawks offer a four-game streak of their own.
Lineups for both clubs
Let’s start with the Chicago Blackhawks. They held a morning skate today in D.C., and here’s what came out of it:
Vincent Hinostroza-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Jordin Tootoo
So the same lines the Blackhawks have deployed throughout their winning streak. The defense, however, appears to be under construction once again. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus believes Michal Rozsival may slot in for Michal Kempny tonight.
As is usually the case with coach Joel Quenneville’s moves, I don’t get this one. Kempny is certainly quickly than Rozsival, and the Capitals offer some very elusive forwards. In addition, Kempny is a far better possession defenseman than Rozsival, and you’d really like to limit any time the Capitals can hang on to the puck.
Corey Crawford figures to draw the start in net after the Blackhawks had two days off.
Here’s what the Capitals are likely to be rolling, courtesy The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Nate Schmidt
Braden Holtby-Philipp Grubauer
Washington has a pretty balanced lineup offensively. Backstrom leads the charge with 38 points, and Ovechkin boasts 35. Five more guys have 22 or more points.
The Capitals are a solid puck possession team with a 50.99 Corsi-for rate. They score 2.47 goals per game while allowing just 1.95 per game. The Blackhawks are going to need their A-game tonight.
TV listings and prediction
Game time: 6 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NHL Network
Radio: WGN 720-AM
TV live streaming: CSN Chicago
Radio live streaming: WGN Radio App
Prediction: Another overtime game is in these teams’ future. Lat time I predicted the Blackhawks would lose, they wound up beating the Carolina Hurricanes by the exact score I predicted they’d lose by. With that logic, let’s try again.
I have the Capitals upending the Blackhawks 2-1 in extra time tonight. The second line of Panarin-Anisimov-Kane will produce Chicago’s lone goal, and Crawford will make 40-something saves.
Be sure to check in with us tonight on Twitter as we live tweet the game via @blackhawk_up.