Chicago hits the road

The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Patrick Kane first overall last summer hoping he could eventually help solve their offensive problems. They certainly could not have expected him to be their scoring leader already.

The rookie looks to continue his strong play Saturday night when Chicago visits the Toronto Maple Leafs in the only meeting between these Original Six franchises this season.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Toronto -196 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 72% of bets for this game have been placed on Toronto -196 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Kane, the first overall selection in June's NHL entry draft, leads the Blackhawks (4-3-0) with seven points after netting his first NHL goal and adding two assists in Friday's 5-3 win over Colorado. His second assist came on Tuomo Ruutu's game-winning goal with 1:25 to play in regulation.

"It was just a matter of time and it's nice to get that one, get rolling and do it in a win," Kane said.

The 18-year-old right wing's strong start is providing a lift to a Chicago team that scored 201 goals last season - tied with Columbus for 28th in the league.

The Blackhawks selected the speedy Kane with the top pick despite his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame. The right wing was coming off a terrific season with the OHL's London Knights, scoring 62 goals and 145 points in 58 games, and helped the United States to a bronze medal at the 2007 World Junior Championships, netting five goals with four assists in seven contests.

He has at least one point in five of Chicago's seven games.

Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks' first-round draft pick from 2006, is also providing some scoring punch with two goals and five points in five games. The 19-year-old rookie, who centers Chicago's second line with Kane and Ruutu, scored a spectacular goal Friday, beating two Avalanche defensemen and goaltender Jose Theodore.

Kane assisted on the score.

"We've haven't seen a goal like this in a long time," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "It was the highlight tape goal of the week, highlight goal of the year."

The Blackhawks are also getting solid goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin, who had 37 saves. The Russian is 3-3-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average in six games this season. He has dropped his last six starts at Toronto with a 4.05 GAA, but has not played there since Dec. 16, 2003, while with Tampa Bay.

Khabibulin made 25 saves in Chicago's only game against the Maple Leafs last season, a 3-1 win at the United Center on Dec. 22.

This is the first visit to Toronto for the Blackhawks since a 4-1 victory on Feb. 3, 2004.

The Maple Leafs (3-3-2), meanwhile, are continuing a three-game homestand after beating Florida 3-2 on Thursday on Nik Antropov's game-winning goal off a rebound with 28 seconds to play.

"I was just in the right position at the right time," Antropov said. "We needed it, and fortunately we won."

Antropov has one goal and one assist in each of his last four games, giving him a team-high six goals and 11 points on the season. However, the center has only one assist in six career games against Chicago.

Mats Sundin, who assisted on two goals Thursday, leads Toronto with 12 points. The captain has at least one point in all but one game so far this season and has an excellent track record against the Hawks, totaling 20 goals and 40 points in 43 career games.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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