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At the Rink: Flames at Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Calgary Flames have lost a season-high four straight games as they prepare to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at United Center.

They are 1-4-0 in their past five games and have dropped the first three games on their current four-game road trip. A team that surprised many with a strong start is now faced with arguably its biggest challenge to date.

"This is as big of a test as you can get," veteran center Matt Stajan said Sunday. "When you're rolling along and winning games, it's easy. You get the bounces and things are going right. Right now, we're fighting it a bit. We're working hard. We're in every game. We've just got to get that timely goal like we were getting a month ago."

During the losing streak, the Flames have been outscored 14-7 despite outshooting each opponent, including a 45-19 advantage in a 4-3 loss Thursday at the Buffalo Sabres. That was similar to the game Calgary won against the Blackhawks on Oct. 15 in Chicago, when the Flames won 2-1 in overtime and were outshot 50-18.

Goalie Jonas Hiller made 49 saves in that game to earn his first win with the Flames. He will be back in goal Sunday.

"Obviously that's one of the games that Hiller stole for us," Stajan said. "It's no secret. We know that. We stole two points from here. I think there's been games we've deserved to win and we haven't won in the last few weeks, so it all evens out. These are the tests you've got to overcome. You've got to stop these losing streaks as quick as you can, so that you don't lose too much ground. Every team goes through it. The good teams end them early, and we've got to figure out a way to do that as soon as possible."

The Blackhawks had an eight-game winning streak stopped Saturday at the New York Islanders after coughing up a 2-1 third-period lead. They didn't hold a skate Sunday, but did trade forward Jeremy Morin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for 23-year old defenseman Tim Erixon.

Morin, 23, hadn't played in the past 20 games, since the Blackhawks beat the Flames 4-3 on Nov. 20 in Calgary. He was sent on a conditioning assignment Dec. 9 and, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, asked to either play with the Blackhawks or be traded.

The trade was announced Sunday morning, giving the Blackhawks another young defenseman for the third pairing. Erixon has 13 points in 70 career NHL games with the Blue Jackets and New York Rangers. He is scheduled to arrive in Chicago on Sunday and meet with reporters prior to the game.

Morin was acquired by the Blackhawks in a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers days after Chicago won the 2010 Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks sent forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, forward Ben Eager, defenseman Brent Sopel and forward prospect Akim Aliu to Atlanta for Morin, forward Mart Reasoner, forward prospect Joey Crabb and two picks in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Each of the picks, forward Kevin Hayes and defenseman Justin Holl, are no longer in the Blackhawks' developmental system. Morin finished his time in Chicago with no points in 15 games this season and 16 points (eight goals) in 54 games for his career

Here are the projected lineups:


Joe Colborne - Markus Granlund - Paul Byron

Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - David Jones

Johnny Gaudreau - Josh Jooris - Jiri Hudler

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Mason Raymond

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Raphael Diaz - Deryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Corey Potter, Brian McGrattan, Brandon Bollig

Injured: Mikael Backlund (upper body), Ladislav Smid (upper body)


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Sharp

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Rozsival - David Rundblad

Antti Raanta

Scott Darling

Scratched: Tim Erixon

Injured: Corey Crawford (lower body)

Status report: Crawford and Raanta went through on-ice drills in the morning with Rundblad, assistant coach Mike Kitchen and goaltending coach Jimmy Waite. ... Potter joined the Flames on Saturday in Chicago. ... Hartley said Smid could be out awhile after leaving the game Friday following a hit late in the second period by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres. Smid was placed on injured reserve Saturday.

Who's hot: Kane has scored a goal in back-to-back games. ... Giordano had a six-game point streak snapped on Friday. He has recorded at least a point in 24 of Calgary's 31 games.

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