November 26, 2014

Back from the All-Star break, the Chicago Blackhawks won't have their captain available to help avoid a fourth loss in five games.

While Jonathan Toews serves his one-game suspension for missing the annual exhibition, the Western Conference leaders try to halt their recent road woes by keeping the Colorado Avalanche from a sixth win in seven games Tuesday night.

Toews sat out the All-Star festivities because of an illness that forced him to leave last Tuesday's 5-0 loss at Carolina. By league rules, he's suspended for one regular-season game - either immediately before or following the All-Star Game.

Though Toews has gone a season-high five straight games without a point, his overall presence is obviously vital to Chicago's success.

"It's disappointing," teammate Patrick Kane said. "We'll definitely miss him (in) an important game."

Chicago (33-16-4) owns a three-point lead in the West but went 1-3-0 leading into the break, getting outscored 11-3, following its franchise-record 12-game winning streak. All three defeats were on the road, and two were shutouts.

"We should have a sour taste in our mouth," said Kane, the NHL leader with 30 goals and 43 assists. "We'll try to start (the second half) the right way."

It begins with three more road games, also heading to Arizona and Dallas this week before returning home.

The Blackhawks won their only visit to Colorado this season, 4-3 on Toews' overtime goal on New Year's Eve, and most recently beat the Avalanche 6-3 in Chicago on Jan. 10. Kane had three goals and two assists in those two meetings after Colorado had won the first, 3-0 at home Dec. 15.

The wild-card leader in the West, Colorado (27-22-3) opens a four-game homestand seeking a season-high fourth straight win at the Pepsi Center. The club's 5-1-0 stretch overall before the break included wins in all four games decided by one goal.

"We're having a lot of fun," All-Star forward Matt Duchene said. "We've showed the character we have in that (dressing room)."

Duchene had a goal and an assist and Gabriel Landeskog scored twice as the Avs overcame a 2-0 hole to beat Los Angeles 4-3 on Wednesday.

"The last game you play is also fresh in everyone's minds, and you want to build off of that and feel good about yourself during the break," Landeskog told the Avalanche's official website. "We wanted to make sure that we played as good as we could."

Landeskog has three goals in three games after going seven in a row without one. He has two with six assists during a six-game point streak against Chicago.

Duchene has three goals and three assists against the Blackhawks this season.

Teammate Semyon Varlamov's has an 0.99 goals-against average and a .972 save percentage during a four-game winning streak, but he hasn't played since Jan. 23. He's been involved with a civil trial brought on by an ex-girlfriend stemming from a domestic incident in October 2013.

With Varlamov expected to serve as the backup Tuesday, Calvin Pickard will start a third straight game after giving up seven goals in the last two.

Chicago's Corey Crawford posted a 1.40 goals-against average in January prior to being pulled for yielding three goals in the first period last Tuesday. He allowed five goals while splitting his two starts this season against Colorado.

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