While the Chicago Blackhawks are gearing up for a run at what they ultimately hope is their fourth Stanley Cup since 2010, the Colorado Avalanche are simply playing for pride.
The Blackhawks will try to extend their latest winning streak when they open a three-game homestand on Sunday night against the league-worst Avalanche.
Chicago (46-20-5) won its fourth in a row and capped a sweep through eastern Canada on Saturday by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Ryan Hartman's goal late in overtime. Chicago is 9-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs with five wins coming on home ice.
With 16 wins in their last 19 games, the Blackhawks have surged to the top of the Central Division, five points ahead of the second-place Minnesota Wild.
"We've continued to stay hot and playing well every night," Hartman said. "I think we just try to win every night. We don't really try look at the standings too much."
The Wild have a game in hand and will not face the Blackhawks again in the regular season.
The Blackhawks' schedule this week is quite favorable as they continue pushing for the top seed in the Western Conference. After facing Colorado, the Vancouver Canucks come in Tuesday followed by the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Chicago has picked up five of a possible six points from Colorado this season. In the only meeting at the United Center on Dec. 23, the Blackhawks fell 2-1 in overtime, dropping to 2-4-2 in the last eight home meetings with the Avalanche.
Marian Hossa did not play Saturday because of a lower-body injury, and while not considered serious it's also not immediately known if he will suit up for this contest. Hossa is the Blackhawks' leading scorer versus Colorado this season with two goals and three assists in just two games.
Patrick Kane's latest point streak ended at four games in Saturday's win. He is among the league leaders in scoring with 77 points (31 goals, 46 assists), but he has only one assist against the Avs in 2016-17. Chicago is 8-0-0 all-time when Kane records a point versus the Avalanche and 2-6-3 when he doesn't.
Captain Jonathan Toews has four goals and three assists in a five-game points streak against Colorado.
If Scott Darling starts in goal, he'll try to add to a remarkable run. Since losing to the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 26, Darling is 5-0-0 with a 1.21 goals-against average and .963 save percentage. He is 1-1-0 with a 2.94 GAA and .889 save percentage in two career starts against the Avalanche, but has never faced them in Chicago.
Corey Crawford won for the 11th time in his last 14 games after a 25-save performance Saturday, and needs one more win to reach 30 for the sixth time in seven seasons. Crawford is 4-0-1 with a 2.00 GAA, a .935 save percentage and one shutout against the Avalanche since January 2016.
Colorado (20-47-3) wraps up a two-game road trip after surrendering four third-period goals in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Even if they win out the rest of the way, the Avalanche will finish with their fewest points since relocating from Quebec in 1995.
"This is a really tough way to finish a season," Colorado's John Mitchell said. "We're a proud group of guys, and it isn't fun to be in this situation. We just have to finish as well as we can and get ready for next season."
On Saturday, Nathan MacKinnon scored just his fourth goal in 30 games and 15th overall for the Avalanche, who were swept by the Red Wings in a home-and-home series.
The top overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, MacKinnon needs two points for 200 in his career. He has four multipoint games among the nine he's played in Chicago.
Blackhawks look to keep winning vs. lowly Avalanche