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Blackhawks aiming for successful homestand

Friday, 03.20.2009 / 4:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks returned home with some unwanted extra baggage -- a four-game losing streak.

The current skid has cost them their No. 4 playoff seed, and they'll look to shed the extra weight when they open a five-game homestand Friday against the Edmonton Oilers (8:30 p.m. ET, GCL). The Oilers won't be a pushover, though; they're in their own fight for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots and are just as desperate for points.

One of those teams the Oilers are fighting with is the Minnesota Wild. The Wild enter tonight's game in New Jersey (7 p.m. ET, GCL) three points behind the Oilers and idle Predators for the final West spot.

The St. Louis Blues, 12th in the West but just four points out of the last playoff position, also are part of that dogfight. They're in Calgary (9 p.m. ET, GCL), which hopes to add another two points to their Northwest Division lead.

In the Eastern Conference, the Penguins and Flyers could lay claim to fourth place. Pittsburgh, 9-0-2 in its last 11, hosts the Kings (7:30 p.m. ET, RIS), while Philadelphia, losers of three of its last four, is in Buffalo (7:30 p.m. ET, GCL).

Other games tonight see the Islanders visit the Hurricanes and the Red Wings in Atlanta.

Here's what to watch:

* New Jersey center Travis Zajac, who is tied for the League lead with a plus-36 rating, has 4 goals and 10 points in his last 10 games. Zajac, who had just 14 goals and 34 points in 82 games last season, has his highest totals of his three NHL seasons this season, with 20 goals 59 points in 70 games.

* The Hurricanes, who haven't made the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, have beaten the Islanders both times they have played them this season and have 10 goals in those two games. Carolina, which is one of six teams in the League with at least six wins when trailing entering the third period, is 28-3-2 when entering the third period with the lead.

* Philadelphia right wing Joffrey Lupul, who is one of six Flyers with at least 20 goals, is just 3 assists shy of tying his career-high of 26, which he set last season. Lupul, who has a minus-44 rating in 359 career games, is a plus-4 since joining the Flyers last season.

* Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who has 4 goals and 5 points in two career games against the Kings, became the first player with 100 points this season when he had 3 assists and 5 points in Pittsburgh's 6-2 win against the Thrashers on Tuesday. Malkin, who has his most assists and goals in the third period with 27 and 12, respectively, has 9 assists and 13 points in his last nine games.

* Detroit center Jiri Hudler is one of five Red Wings with at least 20 goals, but he hasn't scored in 13 games. Hudler is one of two just two Red Wings, along with defenseman Brian Rafalski, to play in all 71 games this season.

* Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson, who has faced the seventh-most shots in the League at 1,611, has earned Edmonton at least a point in his last six games (3-0-3). Roloson, who is 10-7-0 with two ties against the Blackhawks in his career, has a 3.06 goals-against average this season on the road.

* Chicago center Jonathan Toews, who leads the team with 29 goals, has 7 goals and 11 points in his last 10 games but has been held pointless in three of his last five games. Toews, named the Blackhawks' captain this past summer, has 30 points on the road and 30 points at home.

* The Blues won three of their first five games in March, but have lost three of their last four games since then. St. Louis is 18-11-4 when outshooting their opponent, and 11-18-4 record when being outshot.

* Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff leads the League with 41 wins -- his third 40-win season -- but he's won just two of his last five games and has yielded five or more goals in three games during that span.

* Wild center Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who is second among Minnesota players with 44 points, has 13 assists and 21 points in 24 games since the All-Star break after totaling just 15 assists and 23 points in his first 43 games.

* Buffalo center Dominic Moore, who the Sabres acquired from the Maple Leafs for a second-round draft pick for at the trade deadline, has no points in six games with the team despite averaging more than 15 minutes per game.
 
Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.


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