Shut Them Down
Chicago,Il - Containing opponents' scoring chances has been key to the Chicago Blackhawks overall success this season - particularly at home.
But as Chicago seeks to continue that trend Friday, they may have to do it without key defenseman Duncan Keith as they conclude a three-game homestand against the New York Rangers.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Blackhawks -170 money line favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Rangers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 63% of more than 143 bets for this game have been placed on the Blackhawks -170.
Chicago (24-10-7) sits second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference, thanks in part to a defense that is among the best in the league, holding opponents 2.5 goals per game. The team has been even stingier at home, limiting visitors to 2.3 per contest.
A defeat to West-leading San Jose on Nov. 16 stands as the Blackhawks' only home regulation loss this season. Since then, they have held a 33-9 scoring advantage in winning eight straight at the United Center and have allowed no more than three goals in any of those outings.
Despite falling to Detroit at Wrigley Field in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, Chicago is 14-2-4 as a host, taking the first two contests of this homestand.
After Sunday's 3-1 win over Nashville, the Blackhawks topped Buffalo 4-1 on Wednesday to improve to 13-4-0 overall since Dec. 7. They killed off all seven penalties, and held the Sabres to one shot in nearly eight minutes of short-handed play in the second period while holding a two-goal lead.
"I guess that was the turning point," said Cristobal Huet, who finished with 22 saves. "We didn't let them back into the game.''
But Wednesday's win could prove costly as Keith left midway through the second with an undisclosed injury after taking a hard, open-ice hit to the shoulder and head area from the Sabres' Drew Stafford. No other details have been provided, but he's considered day-to-day.
Keith - the anchor of the defense and the Blackhawks' leader in ice time - tops Chicago with a plus-23 rating, and has collected 16 (three goals, 14 assists) of his 26 points over the last 17 contests.
The fourth-year player also scored in a season-opening 4-2 loss at New York (26-15-4) on Oct. 10. Chicago is 3-2-0 with a tie in the teams' last six meetings, with two of those wins coming at the United Center.
The Rangers look to maintain their momentum after they improved to 2-0-1 on a season-high five-game road trip with Tuesday's 2-1 victory against the league-worst New York Islanders.
Trailing 1-0 after being outshot 19-8 in the first period, Chris Drury and Nigel Dawes scored 1:56 apart in the second as New York secured its fourth win in 10 overall games (4-4-2).
Still, coach Tom Renney expected a stronger effort from his Rangers, who are battling both New Jersey and Philadelphia for first in the Atlantic Division. Additionally, a matchup at division foe Pittsburgh awaits them Sunday.
"We've got a couple big games coming up against real good opponents and we're going to have to correct ourselves through looking at this one," Renney told the Rangers' official Web site.
With 33 saves Tuesday, Henrik Lundqvist improved to 4-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average in his last five starts. He's allowed five goals on 73 shots in winning two of three career outings (2-0-1) against the Blackhawks and made 30 saves in the October victory.
Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin didn't play in that contest, but has won seven of his last 11 starts against the Rangers, shutting them out twice and boasting a 2.01 GAA in those outings. He's also 7-0-3 with a 1.82 GAA in 11 home games.
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Posted: 1/16/09 1:36AM ET