The Chicago Blackhawks will get another crack at the Nathan MacKinnon-less Colorado Avalanche on Friday after falling 2-0 earlier this week.
1. Dylan Sikura faces former team for first time
After being taken in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Dylan Sikura spent part of three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was always very productive in the AHL, but he could never seem to put it all together at the NHL level, accumulating just one goal during his tenure in the Windy City.
He was traded in September 2020 to the Vegas Golden Knights, spending just one year there. Now with the Avalanche, the 26-year-old has continued to pile up numbers in the American League, scoring 14 goals and 31 points in 29 games.
It appears that he will be given a brief look in Nathan MacKinnon‘s absence. The Avs superstar forward was injured in Wednesday’s win in Boston, taking a hit from Taylor Hall just over two minutes into the opening period.
2. Dominik Kubalik heating up
To say that Dominik Kubalik‘s start to the season was disappointing would be a massive understatement. The Czech forward had just three goals in his first 21 games, but he’s continued to play his game despite the lack of production.
"“He just asked me if I had seen anything,” Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King said at the end of December. “I said, ‘What I’ve seen is you’re playing without the puck.’ He has done a great job for us that way, and then he’s going to the net, [doing] all the little things we ask from him. That was my message to him: if he continues to do that, the offense [and] the confidence will get there. He’ll shoot one in the net instead of it going off his hip or whatever.”"
While the results didn’t come overnight, the 26-year-old has quietly put together a strong stretch of games, with four goals and five points in his last seven contests. Kubalik opened the scoring in Detroit on Wednesday, the first of eight goals tallied by the Blackhawks.
Including the opening night goal against the Avalanche this season, Kubalik has played well in a limited sample size against Colorado, accumulating three goals and four points in seven games.
3. Recent power-play success
From the beginning of November through the New Year, the Blackhawks struggled mightily on the man advantage. At one point, Derek King’s club was converting at just a 9.3% clip.
Since January 4, though, the Blackhawks have been much better, converting on 9-of-33 (27.3%) power-play opportunities. In Monday’s matchup with Colorado, Chicago went 0-for-1 on the man advantage and then turned it around to score twice in three chances against Detroit.
If the Blackhawks have any shot to slow the red-hot Avs down, they have to find a way to score on the power-play. Colorado’s penalty kill is their true Achilles’ heel, killing off just 75.0% of opponents’ power-plays– good for 27th in the National Hockey League.