When the Colorado Avalanche host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at 9 p.m. EST, they will be attempting to stop the hottest team in the NHL. Conversely, the Blackhawks, winners of the Stanley Cup in 2010, will be trying to extend their NHL-record streak of scoring at least one point in their first 24 games of the season.
Fans will be able to watch the game on the NBC Sports Network or on TSN-2 in Canada. Live audio can be heard online at CBS Chicago's 670 The Score, ESPN 1000 Chicago, Radio 20 WGN, or Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. Because of the league’s television contract with NBC, however, the game will be blocked from the NHL GameCenter subscription service.
The bottom-dwelling Avalanche could gain a major momentum boost by knocking off the Blackhawks, whose streak was notable enough for the hockeyphobic ESPN to compare them to the Miami Heat. Chicago is the toast of the NHL, Western Conference, and Central Division, sitting at No. 1 in the standings with a 21-0-3 record -- good for 45 points under the league's scoring system, which awards two points for a win, one point for a tie, and no points for a loss.
Perhaps the most important contributor to the Blackhawks’ dominance in this shortened season has been Patrick Kane. The former No. 1 overall draft pick has been plagued by off-the-ice issues, which include the embarrassment that came from being photographed during a day of partying with fans last year in Madison, Wis.
That came just as fans had begun to forget Kane’s 2009 arrest for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver in Buffalo, N.Y., a case that led him to plead guilty to a noncriminal disorderly conduct charge, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
To remedy the situation with Kane last year, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman harked back to the days when the then-rookie Kane stayed with the Bowman family -- more specifically, in their basement.
“For me, it came down to I knew what he was like,” Bowman told USA Today. “I know his character. Family is important to him. He is close [to] his parents, close to his three sisters. ... I know he's not the person people portray him to be. It's not Patrick.”
The decision to counsel Kane instead of trade him has paid off. The forward may be the front-runner for the league's MVP trophy, as noted by NBC Chicago's MadhouseEnforcer. He is among the team’s most dangerous performers on the power play, along with Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews.
In a post-lockout season featuring many teams hampered by injury and slumping stars, the Blackhawks are being dragged to victory by the same leadership core that led them to the championship in 2010. Now, though, Bowman is being given credit for boosting Chicago’s surrounding cast after cogs such as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook departed after the team's last Stanley Cup win.
Journeyman enforcer Dan Carcillo scored a last-minute goal to keep the Hawks in a game against the Avalanche this week. Would-be checking line Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, and Viktor Stalberg has provided the secondary scoring any team would be glad to have. And center Marcus Kruger, a 22-year-old Swede, has shown tenacity in the corners while chipping in offensively.
Capt. Jonathan Toews explained the formula for the team’s success to the Chicago Sun Times.
“We never go away, we never give up, we keep coming at them,” Toews said after Carcillo's heroics Wednesday. “Whether we have guys injured and only have basically three lines, we keep coming at them. ... Heck of a game, heck of a finish, and another exciting win for our fans.”