Hawks less certain of first-round opponent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may have spoken too soon.

The Central Division race has taken a turn less than a week after Quenneville said he was expecting to play the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.

The Avalanche have picked up 15 of their last 16 points, and the St. Louis Blues have dropped their last three games. The Avalanche are now within two points of the Blues for first place in the Central with three games to go, meaning the Blackhawks could see the Blues or Avalanche in the first round next week.

"Could be completely wrong," Quenneville said on Wednesday. "I might have used that word prematurely. I waited a long time to use it as well. Who knows? It really played out differently over the last couple of days, and we'll see what happens over the next three games for them and for us as well, but certainly the picture could change. Colorado's on an amazing run right now."

The Blackhawks do still have their own shot at second place in the division. The Avalanche have 109 points, and the Blackhawks have 105. Both teams have three games remaining. The Avalanche own the tiebreaker with more regulation wins.

The Blackhawks are following the Blues' and Avalanche's results every day.

"It's close," Blackhawks forward Ben Smith said. "I watched a little bit of the St. Louis game last night and was paying attention to Colorado. All we can control is these last three games here for us, and we'll try and get six points. Start with two tonight hopefully. Whatever happens the next four or five days, we'll see."

The Blackhawks went 2-1-2 against the Blues and 1-3-1 against the Avalanche this season. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues on Sunday.

The Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup last season while having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, would have to travel to begin the first round if they finish in third place.

"I think playing at the [United Center] is obviously a benefit for our team, being at home, especially when a game goes to Game 7," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "You saw last year the series against Detroit we had home-ice advantage, and I think it helped us.

"It would be nice to get home ice definitely throughout the first round. A lot of things are still up in the air where the seeding is going to be. It seems like Colorado might catch St. Louis. Who knows what's going to happen? We don't even know what the matchup is going to be. We'll see how it's all going to play out and go from there."