Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche
When and Where: Saturday, Dec. 29, Pepsi Center, Denver, Colo., 9 p.m. EST.
Out to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive defeat, the Colorado Avalanche look to right themselves Saturday night at the expense of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Blackhawks seek second win in Denver in eight days
Chicago (14-20-6) is playing its best hockey of the season and seeking a fifth win in six games after knocking off the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Thursday night.
Patrick Kane recorded his seventh career hat trick while rookie Collin Delia made a season-high 46 saves for the Blackhawks. Kane reached the 20-goal plateau for the 12th time in as many seasons in the NHL and has five goals and five assists in a six-game point streak.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 28, 2018
“He’s been good. Can’t say I’m not surprised that he’s performing as he has,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said of Delia to the club’s official website. “He’s very self-aware and I think he built up a lot of confidence last season that he was capable and could go through tough times and could go through adversity and it’s not going to bother him. He had played a game or two last year and so he’s ready. It’s fun to watch. He’s been good for us.”
Though Colliton has not officially named a starter, Delia would not be a bad option considering his other start this season came in Chicago’s win in Denver on Dec. 21 when he turned aside 35 shots in a 2-1 victory.
Kane assisted on the go-ahead goal by Artem Anisimov 1:19 into the third period. He has 12 goals and 39 points in 44 career games versus Colorado but just one goal in the last 11 meetings.
Avs hoping return home ends woes on offense
One of the highest-scoring teams in the league with 130 goals, the Avalanche (19-13-6) have hit a bump in the road of late, tallying just nine while losing four of their last five contests.
They completed an empty two-game road swing with a 2-1 loss at Vegas on Thursday night. J.T. Compher staked Colorado to the lead with a power-play marker 9:42 into the contest, but the Avalanche coughed up the lead less than two minutes later and failed to convert on three other chances with the man advantage in the final two periods.
Nathan MacKinnon.#NHLAllStar Captain.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 29, 2018
The offensive slump has forced coach Jared Bednar into some tinkering ahead of this game, most notably breaking up his top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen in a bid to shake the Avs out of their doldrums.
“We’ve lost [three] in a row, so we got to change something up,” Landeskog told the club’s official website. “Obviously we had some chemistry with me, Mikko and Nate, but I am excited to play with Comph and Kerf. I think Niets is going to do great with Nate and Mikko. It rarely happens that a line stays together for 82 games.”
The Avs forward with the most to gain from the switch is Matt Nieto, who jumps to the top line with MacKinnon and Rantanen. Nieto has four goals and 13 points in 35 games but has not lit the lamp since Dec. 6 in a 5-2 win at Florida.
Colorado’s power play has converted just 3 of 22 chances in its last five games, well off its season success rate of 27.2 percent.
Semyon Varlamov is expected to be between the pipes for the first time in 12 days after Philipp Grauber made 41 saves in Thursday night’s defeat. Varlamov, who appears to have lost the No. 1 spot, is 1-3-0 with a 5.31 goals-against average in his last five starts while yielding three or more goals in all of them.
He stopped 74 of 75 shots in winning his last two starts against Chicago last season and is 13-6-2 with a 2.20 GAA and three shutouts lifetime versus the Blackhawks.
The Avalanche are:
- 13-4 in their last 17 when their opponent scores five or more goals in the previous game.
- 17-8 in their last 25 home games vs. teams with a sub-.400 road record.
- The under is 4-1 in their last five games.
- The under is 3-0-1 in their last four games vs. the Blackhawks.
- The under is 5-1 in their last six when their opponent scores five or more goals in the previous game.
The Blackhawks are:
- 8-23 in their last 31 games following a win.
- 1-8 in their last nine games after scoring five or more goals in the previous game.
- 15-36 in their last 51 games vs. Western Conference games.
- The under is 23-11-3 in their last 37 games after allowing two or fewer goals in the previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While the teams are trending in opposite directions to how they have played most of the season, the Avalanche want to open a four-game homestand on a positive note. Bednar’s decision to break up his big line could be the jolt this team needs to get back to its high-scoring ways, and though Delia has made the most of his two starts for Chicago, getting the call in back-to-back games will be a challenge if he does get the nod.
Prediction: Pick: Avalanche -220
Full-Game Total Pick
This is not a pick for the defense as much as it appears too high a total for both teams to chase. Delia has played well enough to at least keep the Blackhawks in this game if he gets another start, and Varlamov has a strong track record versus Chicago in addition to having a lot to prove to get his No. 1 job back.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 6.5 goals
Half-Time Side Pick
The Blackhawks have been strong in the first period of late with 11 goals in those opening 20 minutes over the last eight games. They also struck first in the previous game at Denver eight days ago through Alex DeBrincat. While the defense is still shaky at times, Colorado’s offensive struggles at the moment make taking the half-goal with Chicago a strong pick.
Prediction: Pick: Blackhawks +0.5 goals (-155)
Half-Time Total Bet
With Chicago’s recent early proficiency and Colorado being able to erupt for goals in bunches as well as give them up, the over is the play here.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 1.5 goals