NHL on NBCSN: Penguins host Blackhawks in battle of conference powers

14 Comments

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Chicago Blackhawks at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

When we last saw the Blackhawks and Penguins facing each other, it was outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago and the Blackhawks cruised to a 5-1 victory.

This time around, they take it indoors in Pittsburgh and both teams are looking to snap out of the doldrums of having playoff spots already locked up. The Penguins are close to locking down the top spot in the Metropolitan Division but just getting wins lately has been tricky.

The Pens are winless in six of the past nine games but are coming off a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. Chris Kunitz has scored in each of the past two games to be the spark, but the Pens will close out the regular season without Evgeni Malkin. At the least, Sidney Crosby is still doing his thing and looking like the NHL MVP in the process.

Crosby has points in three straight games and has a 16 point lead in scoring on on Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf with 97 points. People have wondered the past few seasons what it would be like to see a fully healthy Crosby and the answer is it’s dynamic.

The Blackhawks head into the game on Sunday night having split the past eight games going 4-3-1 in the process. Chicago is locked into either second or third place behind St. Louis in the Central Division and destined to face the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What Chicago has to focus on is getting home ice in the first round and that means winning games more consistently. While they’re without Patrick Kane for the time being, rookie Teuvo Teravainen was a late-coming arrival on the scene to fill the void.

Having Jonathan Toews to lead the way helps make losing Kane a little easier. Since the Olympics he’s been dynamite with nine goals and 13 points in 15 games.

Oddly enough, however, Chicago’s offense has been a bit helter-skelter of late. In the past five games, they’ve been shut out twice but have 10 goals in the other three games. After losing two in row, including a 5-3 decision to the Ottawa Senators, the Blackhawks could stand to get their consistency back.