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Preview: Flames vs. Blackhawks

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

BLACKHAWKS (42-25-7) at FLAMES (31-37-6)

TV: SN, WGN, NHL.TV (8:00 PM MT)

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames have split two games. The Blackhawks won 4-1 at United Center on Nov. 15, with a goal and assist from Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. The Flames won 2-1 in overtime at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 20, getting two points from Johnny Gaudreau (goal, assist) and 18 saves from Karri Ramo.

Blackhawks team scope: Chicago has lost six of its past seven games (1-4-2) and is two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division. It's unlikely injured goalie Corey Crawford (upper body) will make the start of the road trip, but the Blackhawks will get back center Marcus Kruger (left wrist). Kruger, who has been out since Dec. 18, was activated off injured reserve Friday and will return to roles on the fourth line and penalty kill. "The thing I try to worry about, let's go out there and play the same game I've been [playing] before, and that's what I expect of [myself]," Kruger said. "We have a little bit of a rough patch here the last few games, but we've all talked a lot about it as a group and I think we've all got to do a little bit more." Kane didn't practice Friday. "We gave him three days off," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He didn't get the All-Star break and we figured we'd give him some time." Dale Weise filled in on Kane's line.

Flames team scope: Calgary might go back to goalie Joni Ortio after Niklas Backstrom started against his former team in a 6-2 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. No goaltending decision was released Friday. The Flames have lost their past two games by a combined 11-4 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Wild, and go back on the road for four games following this. Without defenceman Ladislav Smid (upper body) and Dennis Wideman (tricep), Calgary has given more minutes to Jakub Nakladal, a 28-year old Czech rookie. He scored his second goal of the season in the loss to the Wild, and has two goals and three points in his first 20 NHL games. "I try to practice every day, especially one-timers and slapshots, because I know I have a hard shot," Nakladal told the Calgary Herald. "The coaches tell me every game that I have to shoot more, so I was happy I scored."

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