Chicago Blackhawks vs. Colorado Avalanche Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 29th 2024

The Colorado Avalanche look to keep pace in the battle for the top spot in the Central Division when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

The Avalanche helped themselves on that front Tuesday, skating away with a 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars to move within two points of the Stars and Winnipeg Jets, who are tied for the division lead.

“We’ve discussed where we’d like to finish and why,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “How important is it? I don’t know. It depends on what we’ve got to do to get there.”

The team will need to be more consistent down the stretch. Though they’ve won three of their past five games (3-1-1), they haven’t won more than two in a row since winning three straight from Jan. 20-26. They’re 4-5-2 since then.

As dominant as the Avalanche have been at home, they’ve been average on the road, where they are 13-13-5. They’ll play six of their next nine on the road.

Nathan MacKinnon has been on a torrid pace all season and extended his point streak to seven games with a goal and an assist against Dallas. He now has 98 points (35 goals, 63 assists), second most in the NHL behind Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (and seven more than Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who is third).

The bulk of MacKinnon’s offense has come in his incredible home point streak, recording 61 points (23 goals and 38 assists) in 29 games. He has had success in opposing rinks, however not at the same level, with 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 31 games, which leads the Avalanche.

“I just think it’s the consistency that he’s playing with on a nightly basis,” Bednar said. “And I’ll say this, he was incredible (against Dallas).”

The Blackhawks enter Thursday’s tilt having lost four straight and 12 of their past 13 games. Most recently, they held a 2-1 lead after two periods and for much of the third before falling 3-2 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, their second straight overtime loss.

“I know we’re trying to work our way through this year and the process … haven’t had the lead in a while and disappointing to let it slip away, but the effort’s always there,” Chicago forward Nick Foligno said after the loss to Detroit. “Just appreciate it from the guys, but gotta find ways to close games, too. That’s the next step in understanding how to win.”

While the positives have been few for the Blackhawks this season, one has been the recent efforts of the penalty kill. The short-handed units have killed off 16 of the past 18 opposition power plays over the past nine games. The team, which entered Wednesday’s schedule 22nd in the NHL on the penalty kill (77.7 percent), has also been disciplined of late, taking just four penalties in the past three games.

Foligno, who is fourth on the team with 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists), has five goals and nine points in his past nine games, and has been held off the scoresheet only once in that stretch.

–Field Level Media

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