December 21, 2014

As the Toronto Maple Leafs become more comfortable with their new-look roster, the established Chicago Blackhawks are dealing with one of their worst stretches of the season.

The defending Stanley Cup champions attempt to end a frustrating homestand on a high note against the transitioning Maple Leafs on Monday night.

Among the NHL's most dominant home teams, Chicago (36-18-5) has dropped the first three of its current residency to match its longest losing streak this season. After opening the stand with two-goal defeats to San Jose and Dallas, the Blackhawks managed to earn a point despite being outshot 44-23 in Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim.

Chicago, which began the calendar year with seven straight home wins and hasn't gone winless on a homestand of at least four games since February 2003, has scored only four times during the skid and has struggled when short-handed. It's killed 2 of 6 penalties, with the Ducks recording the game-winner following a too many men on the ice call.

''We just haven't quite had the speed and the momentum, that jump that we've been looking for,'' captain Jonathan Toews said. ''(Saturday) was a little bit better, but I think top to bottom, all four lines need to be better.''

Those lines will need to be juggled some with Marian Hossa going on injured reserve due to a left leg injury the veteran forward sustained during Saturday's second period.

Injuries have been nothing new for Toronto (20-25-9), currently without four of its top forwards in James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul. It's also minus a captain after trading defenseman Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa on Tuesday, the first of several possible moves prior to the Feb. 29 deadline.

A lineup comprised partly of castoffs and youngsters came together nicely on Saturday, as the Leafs dominated Vancouver 5-2 to stop a three-game slide and register their first win since the Phaneuf deal. Journeyman Mark Arcobello scored twice in his third game back from a minor league recall and 21-year-old Brendan Leipsic had one in his first NHL game in place of Kadri.

"This is a hard league to play in," said Arcobello, who's been on five teams over the past two seasons. "When you get an open door, you've got to take advantage of it . . . You never know when you're going to get a chance again."

After allowing 15 goals over the first three of their five-game trip, the Maple Leafs gave James Reimer a relatively easy night by outshooting the Canucks 38-19.

Toronto does possesses the NHL's worst power play at 14.6 percent and is 2 for 49 in its last 15 games. The Blackhawks were 1 for 21 over a six-game stretch before Brent Seabrook scored one of his two goals against Anaheim on the advantage.

Chicago also received a bounce-back effort from Corey Crawford, who had 41 saves two days after permitting four in the first period of a 4-2 loss to Central Division-leading Dallas. He owns a 2.95 goals-against average over his last five outings after posting a 1.58 mark in winning 10 of his previous 12.

With Crawford having started all six games since the All-Star break, Joel Quenneville could turn to Scott Darling, who made 28 saves to support Patrick Kane's hat trick in a 4-1 win at Toronto on Jan. 15.

Chicago has won 10 of 12 in the series and five straight matchups at United Center, where Toronto last won on Feb. 12, 2013.

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