|CHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|COL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
Despite leading the Colorado Avalanche to the playoffs twice in three years as the club's head coach, Joel Quenneville parted ways with the team after a second-round sweep last season.
Quenneville returns to Pepsi Center for the first time since that series as he leads the Chicago Blackhawks (13-6-7) into Friday's game against the Avalanche (14-13-1).
Since firing Denis Savard and replacing him with Quenneville on Oct. 16, the Blackhawks have gone 12-4-6.
Quenneville and the Avalanche mutually decided to end their relationship in May after the team was swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Colorado finished with 95 points in each of his three regular seasons at the helm, but failed to get past the second round of the playoffs.
The man he replaced as Avalanche coach four years earlier was Tony Granato, and this time it's Granato who has taken over for Quenneville.
They've already squared off once this season but that matchup came in Chicago, with the Blackhawks winning 6-2 on Nov. 3.
"It's tricky, kind of like playing against your old buddies, but at the same time we mean business," Quenneville said after that game.
He went 74-38-11 at Pepsi Center while he coached the Avalanche, which has won its last four home games and is 4-1-1 in its last six overall.
"It'll be a good test going into that building," Quenneville said. "We want to keep playing the same way."
Chicago is 3-0-1 in its last four, including a 2-0 victory over Ottawa on Thursday.
Though Cristobal Huet stopped 23 shots for his first shutout of the season in that win, it appears Nikolai Khabibulin will return to the net for this matchup. Khabibulin, who took the starting role from Huet earlier this season, has not played since suffering a lower-body injury Nov. 26 at San Jose.
"As far as the injury, I'm fine now," Khabibulin said. "I just need to get back to game speed."
Khabibulin, who is 7-1-4 this season, made 26 saves to beat the Avalanche last month, but he's 1-3-0 with a 4.06 goals-against average in his last four games at Pepsi Center.
Patrick Sharp assisted on Patrick Kane's first-period goal Thursday as both players extended their point streaks to five games.
Kane, the Blackhawks' leader with 33 points, has two goals and five assists during that stretch. Sharp failed to score a goal for the fifth straight game Thursday, but leads the team with 16.
Sharp had two goals and an assist in the first meeting of the season with Colorado while Kane added two assists.
Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg, tied for third on the team with 22 points, will return after serving a one-game suspension for a fight near the end of Sunday's win over Phoenix.
The Avalanche (14-13-1) has enjoyed an offensive resurgence with four or more goals in four of the past six games. The club matched a season high in goals Tuesday with a 6-1 victory over Los Angeles.
Colorado began the season averaging 4.0 goals per game in a 4-3-0 start, but scored two or fewer in 12 of its next 15 contests.
"I think we just went through a stretch where we had a tough time scoring goals," Granato said. "I think through a season you're going to have stretches like that."
The offensive surge comes as Colorado loses veteran center Joe Sakic for another three months. Already out with back problems, Sakic broke three fingers in a snow blower accident and had surgery Tuesday.
Colorado has lost four of five versus Chicago but is 3-1-2 in the last six meetings at the Pepsi Center.
|Mar 08 '09||COL 5 at CHI 1||C. Stewart|
|Jan 08 '09||CHI 1 at COL 2||W. Wolski|
|Dec 12 '08||CHI 4 at COL 3||D. Byfuglien|
|Nov 03 '08||COL 2 at CHI 6||C. Barker|