Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

A chance to play outdoors seemed to revive the Chicago Blackhawks' dormant offense despite an injury to one of their top scorers in that game.

The relatively healthy Colorado Avalanche haven't needed a change of scenery.

The Avalanche will try to continue their scoring binge and move closer to the top of the Central Division with a third straight win Tuesday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks (36-12-14) boast the league's most prolific offense with 208 goals but they tallied two or fewer in four of five February games. In their return from the Olympic break Thursday, they came within 11.6 seconds of being shut out by the host New York Rangers until Peter Regin scored in a 2-1 defeat.

Chicago followed with a needed outburst in its Stadium Series game against Pittsburgh at a snowy Soldier Field on Saturday. Jonathan Toews' two goals and an assist led the way in a 5-1 victory.

"We felt like we could find a way to score every time we got the puck," the Chicago captain said. "It honestly did feel like we were playing (pickup) hockey in the backyard."

Even losing Marian Hossa to an upper-body injury didn't slow the Blackhawks down, but Chicago will have to get used to Hossa's absence as he's expected to miss the next two to three weeks.

The winger's 24 goals are third-most on the team, and his 50 points rank fourth.

"There's going to be some quality ice time shared amongst the guys," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Monday. "I thought (Brandon Saad) did a real good job getting put up on that line there as the game progressed the other day so we'll probably put him there and we'll get (Regin) back in the lineup."

While Chicago's offense endured a rough patch, its defense has been outstanding, allowing an average of 1.57 goals in the last seven games.

The defense will likely be challenged by a Colorado team that has scored four or more goals in four straight games - the past three since the Olympic break - and has totaled 19 in that stretch.

The Avalanche (39-17-5) scored four times in the third period Sunday in a 6-3 home win over Tampa Bay. Nick Holden had a pair of goals in the third, and Erik Johnson netted the tiebreaking score with 3:55 remaining in his return from a two-game suspension.

"You ask me what reminds me of the Avalanche of the past, that's the type of hockey we were playing," said coach Patrick Roy, a member of two championship teams for the franchise. "And that's the way we're playing right now."

Fellow defenseman Tyson Barrie also scored Sunday, giving the Avalanche 33 goals from their blueliners this season after they tallied five goals in 48 games in 2012-13.

Colorado's second straight win moved it within three points of Central Division leaders Chicago and St. Louis. The Avalanche host the Blues on Saturday and have their final matchup with the Blackhawks on March 12 in Denver.

Colorado has taken two of three from Chicago this season and claimed a 3-2 overtime win at the United Center on Jan. 14 in the last matchup. Barrie's second goal of the game gave the Avalanche the victory after they blew an early 2-0 lead.

Colorado lost its previous two games in Chicago and was blown out 7-2 there Dec. 27. Patrick Sharp had a hat trick and an assist for the Blackhawks, and Toews matched a season high with four points (two goals, two assists).

Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon, riding an 11-game point streak (five goals, 11 assists), has none in the three games against Chicago.

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