Wednesday marks the fifth matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks this season in what some believe to be a preview of a Western Conference playoff series.
The Blackhawks (38-13-14) have only won one of the past four games this year and will head out to Pepsi Center as they look to hold off the Avalanche (42-18-5) from earning two crucial points.
As the season heads down the home stretch, analysts on both fronts are blowing up the Twittersphere with their thoughts on the Wednesday night's matchup.
Chicago has not done poorly against the high-speed Colorado squad despite them owning the season's series lead. The scores of each game have proven that. The Hawks have even beat their Central Division rival 7-2 at one point in the season. However, they are still in a slump and according to NHL.com's Brian Hedger, a rare face will be in net for Chicago on Wednesday.
Many speculated the Blackhawks were going to pick up an experienced netminder before the Trade Deadline, but General Manager Stan Bowman likes what he sees in the young Finn.
Stan Bowman on adding a veteran backup goalie: “We like Antii Raanta + he’s played well. We are not looking at adding a goalie at all."— David Kaplan (@thekapman) March 4, 2014
In Denver, a Swiss named Reto Berra also could see time as backup.
J.S. Giguere hints at retiring as Reto Berra near new deal with Colorado Avalanche http://t.co/wdTz3NKGFA— Adrian Dater (@adater) March 11, 2014
Both teams have seen veteran names plagued by injuries. Colorado’s P.A. Parenteau has been sidelined for the rest of the regular season.
Avalanche F Parenteau out at least four weeks with knee injury http://t.co/YA7Qe97GK6— TSN (@TSN_News) March 11, 2014
Stastny sat out in their recent matchup with the Winnipeg Jets due to a back injury and is considered day-to-day. Head coach Patrick Roy is doubtful he will play Wednesday.
The Hawks’ Marian Hossa went down in Chicago outside at Soldier Field against the Pittsburgh Penguins and was diagnosed with an upper-body injury. He is expected to return soon and will start skating Wednesday but will not attend the game vs. the Avs. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was injured after blocking a shot against the Sabres on Sunday, but head coach Joel Quenneville is certain he will be ready to go.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is fine and will play for #Blackhawks vs. Avalanche. Marian Hossa will skate in Chicago tomorrow.— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) March 11, 2014
Finally, the debut of Finnish phenom Teuvo Teravainen is expected any day now for the Blackhawks. The 19-year-old will likely fill the role of second-line center. Fans have been looking forward to his debut ever since he was drafted 18th overall in 2012. While he may not get his first start against Colorado, it seems Quenneville really wants him in the Windy City very soon.
When questioned about whether Teravainen would go to world championships instead, Q said: "I would think he would come here." #Blackhawks— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) March 11, 2014
Chicago and Colorado are serious cup contenders. The high-speed offense of Colorado and the physical, skilled Chicago defense make for a classic tale of the Irresistible Force vs. the Immovable Object.
This next meeting is the last time these two clubs will get a look at each other until the playoffs (If they do face each other after all). Expect new schemes and new faces to make their debut Wednesday as both squads look to finish off the series with a victory. Come playoff time though, these games will not matter.
Stay tuned for updates from social media as we will look into more trends before and after the game. Puck drop is at 9:30 p.m. ET.