Nick Wass/Associated Press
The Chicago Blackhawks will look to snap a four-game losing skid when they hit the road Wednesday to take on the Washington Capitals.
This will the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Capitals swept their two head-to-head matchups last year, and they’ll be favored to make it three in a row.
Below is a preview for the interconference clash.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
Matt Marton/Associated Press
The Blackhawks will be without Corey Crawford for the third straight game after they placed him on injured reserve Dec. 1. Anton Forsberg will presumably start Wednesday night, since he was in the net for Chicago’s last two games.
Forsberg was the starter for three of Chicago’s last four losses, so he’s an easy target as the team continues to struggle. However, he allowed six combined goals in those three defeats, and the Blackhawks in particular wasted an excellent performance from him in their 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
“He’s been good for us,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said, per WGN Radio’s Scott King. “Especially in back-to-backs, where he picks up behind Crow, and [we] just can’t seem to get him some offense, give him a little padding, give him a little breathing room.”
Forsberg is clearly a level below Crawford, but he has performed as well as a backup goaltender can be expected to play under the circumstances. Crawford’s injury has highlighted the myriad problems plaguing the Blackhawks.
Entering Monday’s games, Chicago was 11th in goals per game (3.04), but its power-play unit was 28th, converting on 16.1 percent of its opportunities. The Blackhawks leaned heavily on Crawford to keep them in games, which is fine when he’s healthy; it becomes a problem when he’s out injured.
Jim Young/Associated Press
The Capitals have defensive issues of their own of late, though that wasn’t the case Monday as they earned a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Prior to that game, they were allowing an average of 3.07 goals, which ranked 20th in the NHL, and goaltender Braden Holtby was tied for 15th in save percentage (.919).
Like the Blackhawks, the Capitals’ lapses on defense are exacerbated by an inconsistent attack. Washington’s 2.89 goals per game were tied for 18th after the team was the third in scoring (3.18 goals per game) a season ago.
Nobody better symbolizes the Capitals’ offensive malaise than Nicklas Backstrom. The 30-year-old forward had 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 2016-17, averaging 1.05 points per game, according to Hockey Reference.
Through 27 games, Backstrom has scored three goals and assisted on 17 more for an average of 0.74 points per game, which is on pace to be a career low. He hasn’t scored since the Capitals’ 8-2 defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 14.
“Obviously, you want to score,” Backstrom said of his drought, per the Washington Post‘s Isabelle Khurshudyan. “You get so frustrated. I’m aware of the situation, but what am I going to do? I can’t just lay down and play dead. You’ve got to keep trying, and eventually, hopefully it’ll come.”
In that sense, playing the slumping Blackhawks—who are without Crawford—could be the perfect tonic for Backstrom.
Whether or not Backstrom notches his fourth goal of the season, the Capitals should do enough to see off Chicago on Wednesday night.