The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues meet tonight in the first of two meetings between the clubs this week. The Blues and Blackhawks will play again Thursday night in St. Louis.
The pair of games could determine the Central Division winner.
Chicago, who enters tonight’s action winners of four straight, is two points back of the Nashville Predators for top spot in the division.
St. Louis meanwhile heads to Chicago in search a third straight win. The Blues are just a point back of the Preds with a game in hand.
The Blackhawks have taken two of three from the Blues in the season series.
Puck drop tonight is at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can also stream it using NBCSports.com’s Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:
NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks, Blues battle in tight Central Division race
Blackhawks’ van Riemsdyk to have wrist surgery, full recovery anticipated
All the latest from the blue paint…
Petr Mrazek starts for Detroit as rotation continues
Jimmy Howard turned aside 22 of 24 shots in regulation en route to a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota on Saturday, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock announced well in advance that Howard and Mrazek would split Detroit’s goaltending duties this weekend. That’s nothing new for the Wings as Howard’s recent struggles have thrown his status as the team’s number one netminder in question.
The debate was also fueled by Mrazek’s strong play in March (2.18 GAA and .932 save percentage in six games), but he allowed three goals on 25 shots against Boston on April 2.
It remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs with a clear starting goaltender. Then again, it remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs at all. A loss against Washington tonight could certainly complicate matters for the Red Wings.
It’s not clear who will play between the pipes for Washington, although it wouldn’t be shocking to see Braden Holtby start on no rest.
Habs at Panthers: No confirmed goaltenders yet for this one, but Carey Price is rested so odds are Montreal will start him. Dan Ellis might get the nod for Florida after Roberto Luongo surrendered four goals on 22 shots on Saturday.
Sens at Leafs: Andrew Hammond vs. Jonathan Bernier
Blues at Hawks: Jake Allen vs. Corey Crawford
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center, with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
With just a week worth of games left, the battle for the Central Division title is fierce. Nashville leads the pack with 104 points in 79 contests while St. Louis and Chicago are just one and two points back respectively and have each participated in one less game than Nashville. So clearly the stakes will be high tonight and on Thursday when the Blue and Blackhawks battle (Thursday’s rematch will also air on NBCSN).
“It’s amazing,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You play all these games and it always comes down to the last week or the last game. We’re both chasing Nashville. We’re both (trying) to finish in first place overall. We know (Sunday’s game is) a big one and we’re excited for it.”
“Twice in the next three games — huge games for us,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re four-point games with little time to make up ground. We know they’re meaningful (because) there’s still a lot to be sorted out.”
Even the winner of the Central Division will likely face a difficult first round opponent given that the Minnesota Wild – which are 26-7-3 during goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s run – and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings currently occupy the two Wild Card seeds. However, the Western Conference being that tight only adds to the importance of possessing Game 7 home-ice advantage as deep into the playoffs as possible.
It certainly has been a factor when Chicago has played St. Louis in recent years as the Blues haven’t won in regulation in the United Center over their last 13 regular season and three playoff contests. That’s not all St. Louis will have to overcome tonight as Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen are both dealing with lower-body injuries. Those are the Blues top two scorers, but their absence hasn’t stopped St. Louis from outscoring its adversaries 11-6 over its last two games.
Meanwhile Chicago, which is without Patrick Kane (clavicle), has won four straight contests. One of those winning streaks will end tonight and the fight for the Central Division will draw closer to its conclusion.