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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, March 30th (All times Eastern)

Chicago Blackhawks (42-18-15) at Pittsburgh Penguins (47-22-5), 7:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have already faced off in one of the NHL's outdoor games this season and their next meeting after Sunday's clash in Pittsburgh could be for a chance to raise the Stanley Cup.

With the regular season winding down, the two clubs square off for the final time before beginning their respective playoff pushes.

Pittsburgh assured itself of a trip to the postseason after winning Friday's meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1. It clinched a playoff berth for the Penguins and they own a 13-point lead over the New York Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand.

The Philadelphia Flyers are one point behind the Rangers in the standings and have played one fewer game than the Penguins. New York visits the Edmonton Oilers tonight, while Philadelphia hosts the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon.

The Blackhawks had a chance to clinch their postseason spot on Friday as well, needing just a point to do so, but the defending Stanley Cup champions lost a 5-3 decision to the Ottawa Senators.

However, the 'Hawks eventually clinched their sixth straight trip to the postseason despite being idle on Saturday after the Phoenix Coyotes lost to the Minnesota Wild.

Chicago sits third in the Central Division with 99 points, one back of the Colorado Avalanche and eight back of the front-running St. Louis Blues.

There stands a good chance that the Penguins and Blackhawks could come out of their respective conferences and meet in the Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago picked up an earlier win over Pittsburgh this season, notching a 5-1 decision at Soldier Field on March 1 as part of the NHL's "Stadium Series."

The victory was Chicago's third in its last four games versus Pittsburgh.

Jonathan Toews had two goals and an assist as he faced off against Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for the first time in the regular season. The meeting came just six days after the two won Olympic gold together with Team Canada.

Toews is third on the 'Hawks with 28 goals and 68 points, while Crosby leads the NHL by far with 97 points.

Crosby picked up an assist in the win over the Blue Jackets as Chris Kunitz and Beau Bennett scored third-period goals and Marc-Andre Fleury notched 35 saves.

"I felt pretty good," said Fleury, who notched his first victory since March 11, snapping a personal four-game slide. "It's been a while since I won. It was getting frustrating. I just stuck to my game and made the stops. I'm just happy we got the win."

The Penguins as a team had dropped three in a row and six of eight coming into the contest.

Bennett returned to action after missing the previous 50 games with a wrist/hand injury, helping a roster that has battled injuries all season and recently lost Evgeni Malkin (sprained foot) and Marcel Goc (lower body).

Fleury, meanwhile, should get the start tonight and is 4-2-2 with a 2.80 goals against average in his career versus the Blackhawks. He made 35 saves in the meeting at Soldier Field.

The Blackhawks have struggled as of late with losses in two straight and six of their last 10 games. Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook all scored in Friday's loss to the Senators, while backup netminder Antti Raanta yielded all five goals on 29 shots.

"Everyone seems to be a part of the bad habits that are kind of running contagiously through our lineup," noted Toews.

Bryan Bickell has missed his fifth straight game for Chicago due to an upper- body ailment, while Patrick Kane remains out with a lower-body injury.

Corey Crawford is the likely starter for the Blackhawks and he made 31 saves in the earlier meeting this season. He is 2-0-0 versus Pittsburgh with a 1.44 GAA.

03/30 10:21:05 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 3
CLB 4
Final
CAR 19
PIT 37
Final
NYY 5
TOR 2
Final
MIA 1
WAS 2
Final
BAL 2
BOS 3
Final
PIT 1
MIL 0
Final
ATL 2
NYM 10
Final
TAM 5
CWS 10
Final
MIN 2
CLE 7
Final
KAN 5
DET 2
Final
HOU 8
SEA 3
Final
CHC 5
LOS 8
Final
ANA 1
TEX 2
Final
OAK 8
PHI 6
Final
COL 8
ARI 3
Final
SDP 8
SFG 2
Final
STL 2
CIN 7
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
BAL
 
7:05pm Tonight
CLE
KAN
 
7:07pm Tonight
TOR
SEA
 
7:08pm Tonight
DET
CWS
 
7:10pm Tonight
ATL
PIT
 
8:05pm Tonight
TEX
HOU
 
8:05pm Tonight
CHC
STL
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIN
ARI
 
10:05pm Tonight
OAK
ANA
 
10:10pm Tonight
SDP
COL
 
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
SFG
 
Final
CAR 3
CLB 4
Final
WAS 1
BUF 0
Final
CLB 4
STL 3
Final
EDM 3
CAL 1
Final
CAL 1
EDM 0
1:30pm Today
NYI
OTT
 
6:00pm Tonight
NYI
OTT
 
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
DET
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
NJD
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
TOR
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
WAS
 
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
MIN
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
STL
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
ANA
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
COL
 
10:00pm Tonight
ARI
LOS
 
10:30pm Tonight
LOS
ARI
 
Final
CLE 21
BAL 23
Final
STL 31
DAL 34
Final
DET 19
GBP 7
Final
NYG 30
HOU 17
Final
JAC 17
IND 44
Final
NOS 20
MIN 9
Final
NEP 16
OAK 9
Final
BUF 10
SDC 22
Final
CIN 33
TEN 7
Final
PHI 37
WAS 34
Final
ARI 23
SFX 14
Final
SEA 26
DEN 20
Final
MIA 15
KAN 34
Final
CAR 19
PIT 37
8:30pm Tonight
NYJ
CHI