Chicago Blackhawks, Robin Lehner

Blackhawks Looking for Answers on Tough Road Trip

The Chicago Blackhawks dropped a 4-3 shootout Sunday evening to the Arizona Coyotes, marking their third-straight game finishing tied in regulation. They did manage to come away with the second point against the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in their prior two games, but still remain at the bottom of the Central Division with just 30 points.

RELATED: Blackhawks Weekly: Beyond Regulation

Blackhawks netminder Robin Lehner, while failing to stop a shot in the shootout (a self-admitted struggle) was stellar in net, making stops on 44 of 47 shots, including a highlight-reel, third-period save on a shot from Clayton Keller to keep the game tied that may just go down as the save of the year.

“You’re just trying to save the puck,” Lehner said. “I just remember I was a little bit behind the play and I knew (Keller) was back door and I just tried to get something there. It’s instincts and a little bit of luck. Honestly, I just wanted to win (Sunday night).”

RELATED: THW’s Goalie News: Week in Review, Georgiev, Lehner

With the transfer of forward Andrew Shaw from injured reserve to long-term injured reserve, the Hawks announced today that they have recalled forward Matthew Highmore and defenseman Adam Boqvist from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks start the week opening a three-game road trip tonight in Las Vegas against the Vegas Golden Knights. After a quick dip south to Phoenix and a rematch with the Arizona Coyotes, they will head back toward home, stopping in St. Louis for a Saturday-night game with the St. Louis Blues. The week closes on home ice hosting the Minnesota Wild at the United Center, Sunday night.

Tuesday, Dec. 10 @ Golden Knights

The Golden Knights are coming off a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the New York Rangers on home ice Sunday night. With 26 points, Max Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights in scoring, tallying 10 goals and 16 assists. Leading the Vegas goal-scoring effort is Reilly Smith with 12 goals, while adding 11 assists to total 23 points on the season.

Vegas Golden Knights Max Pacioretty Arizona Coyotes Nick Schmaltz
Vegas Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty skates against Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blackhawks offense will need to find an answer to netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, who recently returned to the Golden Knights net after being out for personal reasons. Fleury has 11 wins with a save percentage of .919, allowing 2.54 goals per game.

PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Golden Knights 2

Thursday, Dec. 12 @ Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes enter the week having a 5-3-2 record over their last 10 games and with an 18-10-4 overall record are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Pacific Division.

With the 22nd-ranked offense in the league, the Coyotes have been leaning on their defense to lead the charge. The Yotes are the second-best team in the league in goals against with 73, with both goalies Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta boasting save percentages above .925.

Phoenix Coyotes Antti Raanta
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Look for the Blackhawks to come out strong to avenge their shootout loss from Sunday.

PREDICTION: Blackhawks 2, Coyotes 1

Saturday, Dec. 14 @ Blues

Solidly perched atop the Central Division with an 18-7-6 record, the St. Louis Blues enter the week with 42 points on the season. The mark is tops in the Western Conference and they easily handled the Blackhawks last week during a 4-0 rout at the United Center.

Due to a recent rash of injuries the Blues have found a spark in Ivan Barbashev. While his 14 points overall only ranks sixth on the Blues stat-sheet, he has three goals, four points and a plus-three rating in the last five games and his 18:28 minutes of ice time on Sunday was a season-high.

PREDICTION: Blues 4, Blackhawks 2

Sunday, Dec. 15 vs. Wild

The Minnesota Wild fell to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, 6-2, snapping an 11-game point streak. After the loss to the ‘Canes, the Wild are now 14-12-4 on the season and in fifth place in the Central Division. The Wild offense is led by Jason Zucker with 21 points. Zach Parise leads the Wild in goals this season with 12, including five on the power play, while Ryan Suter leads in assists with 14, seven on the power play.

RELATED: The Wild’s Week: Koivu Steals the Stage

The Blackhawks’ offense will need to step it up on the streaking Wild, with starting goalie Alex Stalock currently 8-4-2 on the year, a 2.91 goals against average and a shutout on his record. Rookie backup netminder Kaapo Kahkonen has two wins in as many starts and a goals against average of 2.00.

Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock
Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

The Wild are banged up a bit, with Devin Dubnyk, Mikko Koivu and Greg Pateryn all on injured reserve.

SATURDAY PREDICTION: Wild 3, Blackhawks 1

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