The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year and the Penguins the year before... but this matchup, which likely looked real promising for NBC when they made it, isn't so great now. The Blackhawks are struggling at 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and the Penguins, despite ranking fourth in the Eastern Conference with 76 points, are playing this game minus a number of key players. That includes Sidney Crosby, out with the aftereffects of various concussions, and Evgeni Malkin, done for the season with torn knee ligaments.
With 24 games remaining in the season, and bad losses to teams like the Blue Jackets in the rear-view mirror, this one really becomes a must-win. Every game is now like that for the Blackhawks, who are only one point from dropping into 13th place in the Western Conference.
They'll have to have a few more games without coach Joel Quenneville, who was released from the hospital yesterday. The team released this statement from team physician Dr. Michael Terry:
“Joel was released from the hospital today and is resting comfortably at home. We will continue to monitor him and still anticipate a full recovery. We are working to determine when it is best for him to return to his coaching duties."
Which makes it sound like it'll be a while. It's hard to tell what might be better for the coach's health -- getting back to a work routine, or not having to watch the Blackhawks melt down every single game.
The game begins at 2:30 p.m. as part of NBC's "Hockey Day In America".