(Sports Network) - Still searching for their initial winning streak of the new year, the Chicago Blackhawks take aim at their first victory against the New York Islanders in over eight years as the two teams battle tonight at the United Center.
The Blackhawks have split the first two contests of a four-game homestand and are coming off Friday's 3-2 shootout victory over the Senators. Jonathan Toews had the game-winner in the extra session while Corey Crawford came away with 24 saves.
Patrick Sharp scored his club-leading 24th goal in regulation while Patrick Kane lit the lamp for the first time since Nov. 30. That drought includes him missing seven games in December due to an ankle injury.
"It's a big win, especially in front of the home crowd," said Kane. "It's huge in the overall standings, too. You get a win and you're right back there in playoff contention."
Chicago, winners in just two of its last six overall but seven of the last 10 at home, is in a tie with four other clubs for the seventh spot in the Western Conference and 12 points back of first-place Detroit in the Central standings.
Chicago was dealt a 5-3 loss on Long Island last year, its sixth straight defeat at the hands of the Islanders. The Blackhawks haven't posted a victory in this series since Dec. 10, 2002 and have lost three straight at home versus the Isles.
Crawford has never faced New York, while Marty Turco is 5-4-0 with a tie and 2.57 goals-against average versus the franchise.
The Islanders continue to play solid hockey as of late, picking up their seventh victory in nine games on Saturday with a 4-3 overtime triumph in Colorado. John Tavares had the game-winner with 68 seconds left in the extra session to give New York a 3-1-0 mark on a five-game road trip.
Tavares, the top pick of the 2009 draft, has six goals and eight assists over his last 11 games. Jeremy Collitonscored twice in his season debut on Saturday and Blake Comeau also potted a goal.
It was a tough first NHL start for Kevin Poulin, who gave up two goals within the game's first two minutes before allowing the game-tying tally to the Avalanche's Milan Hejduk with just four seconds left. Still, the 20-year-old made 34 saves to claim his first career victory.
"I was disappointed," Poulin said about giving up the last-second goal. "It happened and he made a good play across the net. It hit my shoulder and then went into the net. That's why I'm so disappointed. I had a piece of it."
Poulin made his NHL debut on Thursday in relief of 27-year-old Nathan Lawson, who has played in just three games (2 starts) in his NHL career. One of the two will face the Blackhawks tonight with Rick DiPietro not making the trip to due a groin injury suffered on Monday.