CHICAGO (AP) – The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to re-establish their puck-possession system that was a key part in winning a Stanley Cup last summer. The New Jersey Devils’ search for goals has become more challenging.
The Blackhawks will try to capitalize on their only meeting of the season with the NHL-worst Devils on Wednesday night.
Chicago (7-6-1) has dropped four of six following a four-game winning streak. The club has struggled to implement its puck-possession style of play this season, posting a 2.86 goals-against average while allowing 31.9 shots per game.
The Blackhawks were one of the stingiest teams in the NHL last season, tying for second in the Western Conference with a 2.48 GAA while giving up a league-low 25.1 shots en route to ending its 49-year Cup drought.
Chicago has gotten back to basics of late, yielding an average of 23.7 shots over the last three games. The span also featured the return of defenseman Brian Campbell, whose ability on the puck is key to the system, from a knee injury.
Campbell’s season debut didn’t go as planned with the Blackhawks falling 3-2 at the New York Rangers on Monday despite yielding 23 shots.
“Something we’re still working on,” right wing Patrick Kane said of the puck-possession style. “That was one of our biggest strengths last year. We never threw the puck away, we always hung onto it. It was always something we did real well last year.
“Getting (Campbell) back is going to help a lot. He’s unbelievable at the puck possession game, and really puts our forwards in good opportunities to make plays.”
While Chicago is trying to regroup defensively, the Devils (3-9-1) are hoping to find someone to spark their sputtering offensive play after losing left wing Zach Parise for three months following knee surgery Tuesday.
Parise led New Jersey with 38 goals and 44 assists last season, and the club struggled without him Monday, losing 3-0 at Vancouver to drop to 1-4-0 during this six-game road trip.
The Devils’ seven points, 20 goals and 7.3 power-play percentage are last in the NHL. They’ve scored seven times during a 1-5-0 stretch and have failed to find the net more than three times all season.
Those offensive struggles have New Jersey off to its worst start since 1983.
“When you look at the numbers it’s mind-boggling a little bit,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “When you don’t score goals everything is magnified and right now it’s as magnified as it gets.
“It’s hard when your confidence is as low as our offense’s is now.”
Ilya Kovalchuk is having a hard time scoring, getting three goals and three assists through 12 games. The right wing is pointless in four games and has just one in seven.
Kovalchuk, however, has eight goals and two assists in his last five meetings with Chicago. He found the net in the most recent matchup April 2, but the Blackhawks eventually won 2-1 in a shootout.
Chicago has won three in a row over New Jersey.
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