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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Bolland to fill Toews' spot vs. Predators

CHICAGO -- Just one more home game remains before the Chicago Blackhawks go through arguably their toughest stretch of the schedule following the All-Star break.

That game is tonight against the surging Nashville Predators, and the Hawks will be without their captain and top-line center, Jonathan Toews, who was placed on injured reserve today due to an upper-body injury.

Dave Bolland will move up from third-line center to replace Toews on the top line between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane, while rookies Marcus Kruger and Brandon Pirri will man the middle for the second and third lines. Veteran Jamal Mayers will remain in his regular role as the fourth-line center.

Patrick Sharp also is out with an upper-body injury, so the Hawks could start five rookie forwards against the Preds, who have won three games in a row and 11 of their past 13 to make the tight race in the Central Division between the
Hawks, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings even tighter.

"I don't know if I'm surprised," Bolland said of the clogged division standings. "I knew it was going to be a tough time with the teams that we have with us, Detroit, (St. Louis) and Nashville and all the teams we have in our division. We knew it was going to be a tough year and not going to be an easy one."

Tuesday's game won't be easy, either, despite Nashville having hosted Columbus last night while the Hawks had the night off.

"It's definitely a grind and that's what we're going to talk about and reinforce as we go along here, but it's about board balance, puck protection, supporting the puck, traffic and simple plays," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his team's approach to beating the Preds without Toews and Sharp. "It doesn't have to be pretty."

Here is a look at how the Predators and Blackhawks could line up tonight:

Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque
Jerred Smithson - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne will start in goal, with Anders Lindback the backup.

Viktor Stalberg - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Brandon Pirri - Jimmy Hayes
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford will start in goal, with Ray Emery the backup.

In the morning skate, Bickell and Michael Frolik split shifts at fourth-line left wing, so either could get the start, with the other being scratched.
Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 10:18 AM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Howard a fan when it comes to shootouts

The shootout is a bit of a polarizing topic among goalies.

They either like the excitement or dislike the fact that  of the hard work they put in to get to that point comes down to a contest of breakaways. Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is among those who enjoy it.

"I don't mind it," he said of shootouts, following a 3-2 win in the breakaways contest on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "It's fun. It's fun for the fans. It's intense. You can just see by the reaction of the fans how much they enjoy it. It's just about being patient as a goalie, let them run out of room and have to make a move and just push the puck. It's working on it in practice. It's also having fun out there."

It's also a good thing for the Wings that Howard has that kind of outlook about it.

Heading into Monday night's Central Division showdown with the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings have won four of their last six games in shootouts, including their last three in a row. They've also been in five shootouts this season and triumphed in every one -- four won by Howard and one by backup Ty Conklin.

In his four victories, Howard has allowed just two goals, which doesn't surprise his teammates.

"We face him in practice all the time and we know he's a really good goalie when it comes to shootouts," said Valtteri Filppula, who clinched Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets by roofing a wrister past Curtis Sanford. "I think it definitely gives us confidence if we score. It always gives us a good chance to win and (Saturday night) was a good example of that."

In that one, Howard made saves against three Blue Jackets shooters and waited out power forward Rick Nash -- who lost the puck as he was going to shoot, with the puck sliding wide of the net. Each save that Howard made, the home crowd got louder and more into the shootout.

Filppula said each save has the same effect on the Wings' bench.

"There's a lot of good shooters on the (opposing) teams and he makes really good saves," Filppula said. "It definitely pumps up the team and we really want to win those games."

If Monday night's game goes to the breakaways, however, the opposing goalie will be the red-hot Jaroslav Halak, who’s 11-0-3 in his last 13 starts and within two more games of tying the team record for consecutive games without a regulation loss.

However, Halak's been in net for all six of the Blues' shootouts and won just one -- allowing five goals.

Here is a look at how the Blues and Red Wings might line up on Monday night:


David Perron - David Backes - TJ Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 2:18 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Wings hope to keep home streak alive against wounded Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are riddled with injuries to key players and basically playing with a patchwork lineup, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous in the mind of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

The Wings have also won a franchise record 15 straight games at Joe Louis Arena, so a Saturday night visit from the Blue Jackets looks every bit like one of those “trap games” on the schedule – when teams that are heavily favored get trapped into thinking it’s going to be an easy win.

Babcock isn’t looking at it in quite the same way, however.

“I worry about every game,” he said after Detroit’s optional skate on Saturday morning. “On game day I worry about the game we're playing and that would be consistent today. Obviously, we have to find a way to win. We have done that the last couple of games. We haven't been great in our last couple, so we can be much better and we expect to be much better at home.”

They have been, too.

The Wings have lost just xxx time on home ice this season, where at times they’ve looked like an entirely different team than when they wear the road whites. The good news for the Wings is that their last two wins both came on the road to even their road record at 13-13-0 after lagging below the .500 mark for most of the season – and now they get a struggling, injury-strapped opponent at Joe Louis Arena.

It might not seem like a big game from the sheer matchup, but the way the top three teams in the Central Division have played leapfrog in the division and Western Conference standings of late, they’re all big games from here on out.

“Overall, playing fast is what we have to do to be successful,” Babcock said. “We haven't been as efficient as we'd like to be (recently), but we've found a way to grind out points and as you know in the NHL that’s hard to do.”

Here’s a look at the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Red Wings on Saturday night:


Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
Ryan Johansen - Derek Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies-Derek MacKenzie-Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson

Curtis Sanford
Steve Mason

Columbus received some good news on the health front on Friday to go with its spate of bad, as forward R.J. Umberger (concussion) passed his baseline test to get back on the ice, according a report from the Columbus Dispatch. He will not play against the Red Wings and neither with recently-signed defenseman Brett Lebda – a former Red Wing who was brought in to help fill the void after Radek Martinek’s season was officially ended because of a concussion he got on Oct. 19 when hit by Detroit’s Brad Stuart.


Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

 Rookie forward Jan Mursak and Jakub Kindl will be healthy scratches for Detroit, which means defenseman Mike Commodore will get a chance to start against his former team – which buried him in the minors for most of last season before signing with the Wings as a free agent. Commodore had been battling a foot injury that happened while blocking a shot, but is healthy enough to play now.
Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:34 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Bolland quietly making impact, Sharp healing

CHICAGO -- A lot of the recognition for the Chicago Blackhawks' recent success has gone to captain Jonathan Toews, Viktor Stalberg and impressive rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes.

Brushed aside a little is the play of Dave Bolland, who's done a lot more in the past six games than just disturbing the other team's top line by being a puck-hounding pest. He's also scoring goals and setting up teammates for good scoring opportunities -- skills he showed in abundance while playing in junior hockey.

Bolland has 6 goals and 3 assists in the last six games and now has 14 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season. He's currently centering the third line with Andrew Brunette on the left side and the 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes on the right.

"Bolly's game has been trending in the right direction," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "When he has [pace and speed] to his game, he's so effective in a lot of ways offensively and defensively. Things are going in for him right now and that I like that line, as far as what they’re doing offensively -- and defensively we haven't had too many shifts in our own end."

In other Blackhawks-related news, injured forward Patrick Sharp is still in the holding pattern of his recovery from an upper-body injury (hand/wrist) that has the Hawks projecting a potential return to the lineup at some point during a trip to Western Canada following the All-Star Game at the end of January.
Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Chirp-fest begins as Hawks get set to face ex-mates

CHICAGO -- It started with a friendly suggestion made by Jonathan Toews on Thursday night, when he and some other Chicago Blackhawks met up for dinner with former Hawks Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille, who are now Florida Panthers.

"I was willing to take 'Steeger' to the hair salon and get him a haircut, but he didn't want to do that," said Toews on Friday morning, referring to the long, blond hair Versteeg is sporting these days. "He just wanted to hang out at the restaurant. Good to see him a little bit, though."

Florida will face Chicago on Friday night at the United Center (8:30 p.m.), but the game could feel a little bit like an old Blackhawks inter-squad scrimmage between the whistles -- thanks to the Panthers being constructed by former Chicago general manager Dale Tallon, who's collected four Hawks from the 2010 Stanley Cup team plus Skille.

That 2010 Hawks team had great locker room chemistry and thrived off subtle jabs at each other off the ice. Thus, Toews' crack about Versteeg's hair was not unexpected by the recipient -- who's making his first trip back to the Madhouse on Madison since helping Chicago win Game 5 of the 2010 Cup Final by scoring a goal.

In fact, Versteeg was ready with a comeback for Toews after Florida's Friday morning skate when told of the haircut quip.

"It's always been a thing of [Toews'] … try and get inside someone else's mind, when really you can get inside his mind before he can get inside of yours," Versteeg said. "So last night at the restaurant he let me know about it, but [the hair's] not going to go anywhere anytime soon."

Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane also got in a few barbs on Versteeg, who was definitely one of the leaders of Chicago's Kangaroo Court two seasons ago. Asked whether he thinks Versteeg will show off his "rap skills" again for the special occasion of his return -- something he did in front of millions at the Hawks' Cup parade -- Kane just laughed.

"You call those skills?" he said. "I don't know if you could call those skills. That was pretty embarrassing, so hopefully we don't see any of that for a while."

Versteeg, however, said he hasn't even come close to giving up his interest in musical performance.

"I've actually been writing a few things here and there and I'll be coming out with a music video, but that's actually in the near future," he said, trying to stay straight-faced. "That's actually a work in progress."

Kane, Toews and Versteeg all agreed on one thing -- playing this game on Friday night ought to be a blast, especially when it comes to the banter between the former teammates. Florida also has former Hawks Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden and Jack Skille likely playing.

"There's always old stories coming up and I think they'll be some pretty tough competition," Toews said. "It might get a little heated out there. We'll see."

Kane said it's probably going to be a little weird seeing them all wearing different uniforms inside the United Center -- not to mention trading some friendly trash talk during stoppages.

"They were all big parts of our team and it's fun to see them all, for sure," Kane said. "It's almost kind of like it's not a real hockey game. There's a lot of laughing and joking around and having fun, but at the same time you want to beat them, too. It's a little bit different, but it's definitely fun."
Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:14 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Madden happy to get shot with Panthers

CHICAGO -- He's 38 years old now and the phone just wasn’t ringing when the season started.

So John Madden kept training three days a week and also watched a lot of hockey while he patiently waited for some team to call about him playing center for them. That team was ultimately the Florida Panthers, who signed him on Jan. 4 to man the middle of their third line -- but not before the silence of his phone got him thinking about his career.

Madden won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and then signed last season as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild before heading out into the open mark again last summer.

Did he think his playing days might be over at any point?

"Oh, for sure," Madden said. "It's a new game and a lot of teams are going with young, talented kids and seeing what they've got. Reluctantly I thought it might be the end of the line, but I told myself it wasn't and tried to stay in shape the best I could -- even though I thought the writing was on the wall, so to speak. I was glad to get a phone call from (Panthers GM Dale Tallon)."

While he waited for that call, Madden worked out three days a week on the ice and several days a week off ice -- also watching a lot of hockey and wondering why certain teams hadn't called his agent.

"I think that's the part that hurt the most," Madden said. "I'm not being conceded or anything like that, but having watched a lot of the hockey games this season -- and for some reason I've watched more hockey this year than I have my entire life, at least two or three games a night and possibly seven a week -- yeah, those thoughts went through my mind. I was thinking, 'I know I could still play,' and I still wanted to play. That's the biggest part. You know you've had enough when you don't want to play anymore."

Madden hadn't reached that point yet, but he was getting close after busting his tail in workouts and not having a guarantee that it would pay off at all.

"It's hard to just go at it by yourself," said Madden, who only spent one season in Chicago and won two other Cup titles with the New Jersey Devils. "I never really thought it would be that hard, but the motivation has to be there within yourself in order to get up and do it every single day. There was no guarantees. It's not like you're going to training camp. That was a hard thing I had to fight though on most days, but I stayed with it somewhat."

Madden has yet to register a point for the Panthers in the five games he's played, but he's won 52.1 percent of his faceoffs and logged 14:33 of ice time per game.
Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Happy homecoming for some Panthers

CHICAGO -- The reunion of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks began in earnest Thursday in the Windy City with a dinner between some current Hawks and now Florida Panthers.

It will continue today at the United Center, when Florida's Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell will return to the Madhouse on Madison for the first time as visitors since they celebrated that Cup title in 2010.

Versteeg, in fact, is one of the few from that team who never had seen the Cup banner in the rafters until this morning at the Panthers' practice; the last time he'd been inside the arena was Game 5 of the 2010 Cup Final.

Now he's back, along with a host of other former Hawks -- and their presence gives this matchup a unique feel.

"It's going to be like an inter-squad scrimmage," said Versteeg, who took a few moments before taking the this morning to remember what it was like when he was part of the most talented young teams in the League. "I didn't get to see the banner raised last year and it's the first time I got to see the banner, so it was a pretty neat experience just seeing what you accomplished with a team. I'm excited about the game tonight, though. I'm excited to really get this thing going."

Here is how the lineups might look like tonight for the Blackhawks and Panthers:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Mikael Samuelsson - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Scottie Upshall - John Madden - Matt Bradley
Krystofer Barch - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Keaton Ellerby - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Jimmy Hayes
Ben Smith - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Ray Emery will start in goal, with Corey Crawford the backup.
Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Kane recalls growing up as diehard Sabres fan

CHICAGO -- Somewhere in his parents' basement in Buffalo are a whole bunch of Buffalo Sabres hockey sweaters that used to belong to Patrick Kane.

Some have "Mogilny" or "Lafontaine" or "Hasek" stitched on the back, while several are No. 11 and have "Kane" across the nameplate. Those particular jerseys also have a captain's "C" in the front corner.

Needless to say, the Chicago Blackhawks' star forward was quite the Sabres fan when growing up in Buffalo. He'd attend games with his family and play "mini sticks" in the hallways outside the concession area between periods.

During the game, he'd sit near the visiting team's bench and soak in the entire scene -- from all the sticks in the rack to how each player looked as they came out from the locker room ready to play.

"I was probably five or six years old when I started and went to about 20 games a year until I was like 13 or 14 and I moved away from home," said Kane, who will face his childhood favorite team on Wednesday night at the United Center for the sixth time in his NHL career. "I probably became an even bigger Sabres fan just watching from the sidelines. I've got a lot of good memories in that rink, playing mini-sticks with my buddies in the hallway and missing periods because you're out playing mini-sticks."

In the Sabres' old arena, they'd used the heaters in the hallway as "nets" and shoot makeshift pucks at them with mini hockey sticks purchased at the concession stands. They also had another intermission tradition that involved food.

"I remember always having to get the nachos between the second and the first period and the ice cream between the second and third," Kane said on Wednesday morning. "Different things like that, that were kind of silly is what makes these games kind of special to me now … to look back on them."

He still keeps track of the Sabres and how they're doing season to season, but his days as a "fan" are over -- despite his friends and family back home still passionately following the Sabres.

"You keep track (of them), for sure," said Kane, whose favorite Sabres were Dominik Hasek, Alexander Mogilny and Pat Lafontaine -- along with the best players on opposing teams. "To say I'm rooting for them, I'd probably be lying to you. Ever since I got drafted to the Hawks, that's probably when my Sabres fan days died. Other than that, though, I still keep tabs on them. I guess that's just how it happens."

Thus, he won't feel any remorse if the Blackhawks add to Buffalo's current losing streak -- which stands at just two games in a row overall, but spans nine straight road games dating back to early November. Kane is well aware of how frustrating this season has been for the Sabres, because he hears about it a lot with the angst of friends back in Buffalo.

"There's a lot of frustration, for sure," Kane said. "You hear a lot of different things they're saying about the Sabres, but I don't know … sometimes a team doesn't have the right chemistry and sometimes you go through slumps. Who knows the real reason? I'm not really sure, to be honest with you, and right now I'm worried about tonight's game -- trying to pounce on a team that's struggling and hopefully make their wound a little worse."

Kane's been in a bit of a scoring funk recently, with just 3 goals in the past 27 games and none in the past six, but he's played well against his hometown team in the previous five meetings (2 goals and 3 assists).

"I don't get to play them much," Kane said. "I think this is the sixth time in my career, so it's a little more special. It's one of the first things you look for on the schedule, whether you're going back to Buffalo or they're coming here. It's exciting. It's a game that doesn't come around a lot and I try to take advantage of it."
Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blue line hardly lighting up the board for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- It hasn't become a big issue yet because the Chicago Blackhawks are averaging 3.2 goals a game, but hardly any of those markers are being credited to defensemen.

Assists aren't a problem, but when it comes to goals … they just aren't happening for Chicago's blueliners with a lot of regularity. As a whole, the Hawks' defensive core has scored a combined 13 goals heading into Wednesday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center.

Steve Montador has 5 goals to lead the bunch, but two of those were scored when he was used as a forward on the top power-play unit. In fact, Brent Seabrook is the lone Hawks defenseman to score while playing the point on the power play -- and that's just one goal.

In an effort to boost production from the back end, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has moved Montador to one of the points on the top power-play unit for Wednesday's game.

"He'll shoot it and we're looking for more shots," Quenneville said. "What we do after that is complementary to the type of players we have on (the PP units). Let's make sure we at least get some more pucks to the net and then go from there."

Simply firing more shots isn't the entire problem.

Top defenseman Duncan Keith is taking more slap shots of late, but the puck isn't going into the net. He hit the crossbar early in Sunday's win against the San Jose Sharks, and last week one of his blasts was partially blocked in the slot before ricocheting off teammate Jonathan Toews' head and then hitting the right post.

"Dunc's had some great looks lately," Quenneville said after Chicago's optional skate on Wednesday morning. "He's hit some posts and I like him active on the point, and he's been getting some opportunities to give us some offense on the back end."

Still, Keith hasn't scored in 28 games and no Hawks defenseman has found the back of the net in the past six. On Sunday, 20-year old Nick Leddy because just the fourth Hawks defenseman to put up 20 assists in a season before his 21st birthday -- but even he only has 2 goals thus far.

"We've just got to keep creating plays and helping the forwards by moving around in the (offensive) zone and just trying to get shots through and take a lot," said Leddy, who hasn't scored a goal since Halloween. "It's kind of read and react. Every play is different and I think it just depends on the play."

Quenneville, however, likes to see his defense joining the play on offense -- which usually leads to good scoring chances for somebody, even if it's not a defenseman who gets the shot.

"Sometimes you measure by goals or assists, but I still think our offense is helped by our defense getting involved in the play and off the point -- both Duncs and (Nick Leddy) and our whole group for that matter. Maybe they're not scoring at the rate we'd like, but at least they're giving us some offense from the back end -- which is noticed in our game."

Likewise, the lack of goals scored from the back end isn't noticed as much when the Hawks' talented group of forwards are scoring -- which they've been doing lately, even without the injured Patrick Sharp's 20 goals available for a few weeks.

"As a team, I still think we're getting some scoring and sometimes you're not really concerned … who's really producing for you," Quenneville said. "But over time you'll get stretches where it will be going in from the point and a lot of times you get those points on the power play -- and the power play hasn't been as hot as it was."
Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Schedule does Sabres no favors as they face Hawks

CHICAGO -- The task doesn't get any easier for the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in the Windy City, when they come into a game against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m., NBCSP) with a franchise-worst nine-game road losing skid.

It will also be the second straight opponent that finds itself right in the mix among the best teams in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks will be looking to leapfrog the idle second-place St. Louis Blues and first-place Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division -- after the Wings did the same to the idle Hawks on Tuesday by winning a shootout in Dallas.

The lead changes in the Central Division and West standings are happening on a nightly basis again because there are a host of good teams battling it out. Over in the Eastern Conference, it's tight at the top but the Sabres aren't anywhere near that fight.

They're more concerned about sitting fourth in the Northeast and 11th in the East with 43 points -- seven back of the eighth playoff spot after getting blown out 5-0 Monday in Detroit.

"We're playing a dangerous team tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks' optional morning skate. "They're going to be ready and they're a desperate team. They've got a lot of ability. We'll have to make sure we check well and take care of that part of our game."

In terms of skill level and ability, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff could say the same thing of his Sabres' need to play the Hawks -- who are 17-5-4 at the United Center this season, including three straight wins on their home ice.

Ruff said Monday's blowout loss in Detroit might not have been entirely indicative of the effort the Sabres put into it, but rather the result of each mistake they made in an otherwise solid first period leading to three goals before the horn sounded.

"I've seen a lot worse games," Ruff told at Tuesday's practice in Chicago. "I've seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating. I've got to guard against (getting emotional) when I'm standing behind that bench, to let my frustration show. It's not a time to yell and scream, to rant and rave. We've had some discussions in the room, but my frustration can't show. I've got to be the guy that leads them through this."

Buffalo also held an optional skate at the United Center and Ruff will be available to speak with the media Wednesday afternoon.

The feeling after the Sabres' workout was that backup goalie Jhonas Enroth would get the start against Chicago. Buffalo also has a number of injured players who are still unable to play, which is another issue in their struggles.

Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Sabres might line up on Wednesday night:


Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Luke Adam - Brad Boyes - Ville Leino
Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera/TJ Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Jhonas Enroth
Ryan Miller


Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Ben Smith - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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