A shaky eight-game stretch has dented the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff aspirations with two weeks left in the regular season. They hope a home date with the road-weary St. Louis Blues on Sunday can help bolster their slim postseason chances.
The Blackhawks (35-32-8) have lost six of their last eight games (2-4-2) following a 10-3-1 stretch. Their current run has dropped them into 12th place in the Western Conference, six points behind eighth-place Colorado for the final playoff spot.
Chicago, which has six games remaining, was limited to one point Saturday as it was stopped on two of three shootout attempts in a 2-1 loss at Nashville.
"I'm proud of our guys because they came to work," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "It was a strong effort and that is all that you can ask. We had plenty of chances to get plenty of goals. When you get 38 shots with no power play you've done something pretty good."
|Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to be back in net on Sunday afternoon against the Blues after losing in a shootout to the Predators on Saturday night. He is 5-2-0 against St. Louis in his last seven starts. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)|
Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 33 saves and was beaten on both shootout attempts against the Predators, is expected to be back in net Sunday. The goaltender has been excellent in three games after missing 12 in a row with back spasms. He has stopped 63 of 64 shots while going 1-0-1 in three games - two starts - since returning to the lineup.
Khabibulin is 5-2-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average in his last seven starts against the Blues (30-33-11), including a 20-save performance in a 3-2 road victory on Nov. 3.
The Blackhawks are 3-3-0 this season against the Blues, but have won five of the last six home meetings, including a 6-1 victory on Jan. 16 that was powered by Patrick Kane's goal and two assists.
The 19-year-old rookie, Chicago's leader with 63 points, wasn't as effective in the last matchup between the clubs, going pointless in a 5-1 road defeat on Feb. 19.
The Blues, owners of the second-fewest points in the West, are looking to end a miserable season-high, nine-game road trip on a positive note.
They are 1-6-1 on the trip with the lone victory coming in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win at Montreal, which snapped a franchise record-tying 10-game road losing streak. St. Louis followed that up two nights later by falling 3-2 at Ottawa as it managed only six shots in the third period.
The Blues have been outscored 11-2 in the final period during the road trip.
"There wasn't a lot separating the teams," Blues coach Andy Murray said after Thursday's defeat. "We've had an inability to score goals at key times."
Brad Boyes, the team-leader with 38 goals, has only scored once in the last four games after finding the net five times in the previous three. The right wing hasn't scored in four games at Chicago and has only one goal in seven meetings overall. That lone tally, though, came in the last meeting on Feb. 19.