National Hockey League

Sliding Avalanche host showdown vs. Blackhawks

(SportsNetwork.com) - Trying to break out of slump against the defending Stanley Cup champions is one thing, but it becomes much more difficult when trying to do so without your leading scorer.

The Colorado Avalanche, minus forward Matt Duchene, try to snap a season-high, three-game slide on Tuesday night as they play host to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Avalanche hadn't lost back-to-back games this season before their current losing streak and they have also dropped four of six since their 12-1-0 start. It marks a big test for rookie head coach Patrick Roy as the club tries to prove its fast start wasn't a fluke.

That may be tough to do tonight given that Duchene is out with an oblique strain suffered in Saturday's 4-1 setback to the Florida Panthers. The Avs are hoping the ailment only sidelines the 22-year-old for a week as he leads the team with 12 goals and 20 points.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal in Saturday's loss, while Semyon Varlamov allowed all four Florida scores on 33 shots faced.

Colorado fell to 8-3-0 at home on the season.

"Effort is not a problem with this team. It was focus and we made poor decisions," said Roy.

The Blackhawks made a lot of poor decisions themselves in a 7-2 thumping at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, but bounced back one day later with a solid 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Patrick Sharp led the way with two goals -- one on a penalty shot -- and Corey Crawford stopped 23 shots as Chicago moved to 8-1-1 in its past 10 games.

"It was a good response after a tough game (Saturday) in Nashville. I thought we came out right from the start of the game with better speed and winning more 1-on-1 battles than last night and it resulted in a better outcome," said Sharp.

Captain Jonathan Toews scored the first of three Blackhawks goals in the third period that broke the game open and Patrick Kane had an assist on Brandon Pirri's first-period tally, extending his point streak to seven straight (4 goals, 6 assists).

Kris Versteeg had a goal and an assist in his return to Chicago. Versteeg was a member of Chicago's Cup-winning 2010 club before getting dealt that summer. He was reacquired from Florida on Thursday.

"It was emotional coming back, for myself," said Versteeg. "(Saturday) night definitely wasn't the way I saw coming back in my head, but tonight was very exciting. The guys put in a big effort, and obviously we've got to keep that going into a big road trip."

Versteeg was referencing a seven-game swing that begins with this contest. Chicago hopes to have forward Marian Hossa available on the trip as he has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury.

The Blackhawks don't play at home again until Dec. 3.

The 'Hawks won two of three versus the Avalanche last season and this is the first of five meetings between this new division rivals in 2013-14. Colorado joined Chicago in the new-look Central Division under realignment.

The Avs have won six of their last nine at home versus the Blackhawks and Varlamov is 3-3-0 with a 2.64 goals against average in six career meetings with Chicago.

Crawford has gone 2.4-1 with a 3.14 GAA in seven games versus Colorado, including six starts.

11/19 10:51:33 ET

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