RALEIGH, NC – The Chicago Blackhawks came into Friday night’s bout with the Carolina Hurricanes, losers of three of their last four games, looking to string a pair of wins together and get back on track and stay atop the west.
The Blackhawks got on the board early in the first period when Michal Kempny scored his first career goal on a slap shot that he put behind Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 advantage just over six minutes into the contest.
The Hurricanes answered the Blackhawks with two goals in a span of 65 seconds, with Elias Lindholm and Lee Stempniak scoring against Scott Darling. Lindholm’s tally was his fourth of the year and Stempniak recorded his eighth of the season, giving the Hurricanes a 2-1 first period lead. The two teams would take the 2-1 Hurricanes lead into the third period before the Canes’ extended their lead to two goals on a Jay McClement unassisted slap shot, giving the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead early in the third period.
A few minutes later the Blackhawks would pull within a goal on the strength of a Vinnie Hinostroza snap shot goal on Cam Ward, cutting the Canes’ lead to 3-2 with 17:06 remaining in the game. The Blackhawks would not be able to complete the comeback on Friday night, as Cam Ward thwarted their rally down the stretch, stopping the Hawks’ last 10 shots on goal.
Since the Blackhawks fifth and final win of their five game winning streak in the middle of the month, the Hawks have posted a less than stellar 1-4-0 record over the past 12 days. Losing to the Senators, Avalanche, Jets, and Hurricanes over that stretch.
The Blackhawks, now 23-11-5 are quickly losing ground atop the Western Conference standings, with the red-hot Minnesota Wild just one point behind the Hawks’ at the end of play this evening. The Wild, winners of 12 consecutive games also have four games in hand on the Blackhawks as of Friday night.
More bad news for the Hawks’ after tonight’s game, Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that injured Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger will “miss some time” and be “evaluated on a week-to-week basis”. Kruger is one of the Hawks’ more valuable members of the penalty kill and a superb defensive forward, so the Blackhawks can’t afford to miss Kruger for an extended period of time, with their already near-league-worst penalty kill percentage.
The Blackhawks (23-11-5) next game will be their Winter Classic showdown with the St. Louis Blues (19-12-5) on Monday at Noon. The Central Division rivals will take their rivalry outdoors on Monday when they face-off at Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals for the NHL’s annual outdoor event. The forecast for Monday in St.Louis is expected to be in the 50’s with scattered rain showers, and threatens to possibly delay the Blackhawks and Blues outdoor tilt due to ice issues, but no changes have been made to the scheduled start time as of now. You can catch the action on NBC (TV) and WGN-720AM (Radio) on Monday afternoon.