Chicago at Pittsburgh
When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have taken their feet off the gas pedal on the heels of sterling stretches, as the former has yielded 12 goals in back-to-back losses while the latter has dropped three straight (0-1-2) after winning eight of its previous 10. The Presidents' Trophy hopefuls look to get it together at the other's expense Wednesday, when Western Conference-best Chicago wraps up a three-game trek versus the defending Stanley Cup champion.
"Maybe that last 10 percent (of effort hasn't) been there," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told the Chicago Sun-Times after the Blackhawks squandered a three-goal lead en route to a 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Monday. "I don't know what it is. Maybe it's getting close to the end here and we're getting a little bit too comfortable. As soon as you do that, you're going to lose games." While Chicago can afford to be comfortable with a sizable lead on second-place Minnesota in the Central Division, Pittsburgh doesn't have that luxury in the Metropolitan as it resides behind both first-place Washington and Columbus. Captain Sidney Crosby (NHL-best 42 goals) has mustered just one point during the Penguins' current skid and was kept off the scoresheet in a 4-1 setback against the Blackhawks on May 1.TV:
8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVAABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (48-21-7):
Reigning Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane has erupted for 33 points (19 goals, 14 assists) in his last 24 games, highlighted by his fourth career regular-season hat trick in Chicago's victory over Pittsburgh earlier this month. Rookie Nick Schmaltz notched a pair of assists in that contest and also set up two goals against the Lightning, increasing his point total to 19 (three goals, 16 assists) in his last 20 games. Captain Jonathan Toews also has found his offensive rhythm with three goals and four assists during a six-game point streak before being shut down in back-to-back contests.ABOUT THE PENGUINS (46-18-11):
Pittsburgh's injury-riddled lineup appears to have avoided another absence as top-line forward Conor Sheary was a full participant in Tuesday's practice, two days removed from exiting a 6-2 setback against Philadelphia with a lower-body ailment. "Today was kind of a test day," the 24-year-old Sheary, who recently had missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, told reporters. "I felt pretty good out there. More of just a precautionary thing to make sure things didn't get worse last game." Former Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) continued to show progress on Tuesday in the eyes of coach Mike Sullivan, but he likely will miss his seventh straight contest.OVERTIME
1. Pittsburgh veteran C Matt Cullen has recorded two goals and an assist in his last two games but missed practice on Tuesday due to illness and is questionable to play versus Chicago.
2. Blackhawks RW Ryan Hartman is "very likely" to return to the lineup Wednesday after serving as a healthy scratch for mouthing off to an official, coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago.
3. Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury was tabbed as the team's nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is presented to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.PREDICTION:
Penguins 4, Blackhawks 3
Stats and Records