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Blackhawks aim to win special teams battle vs. Flames

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

FLAMES (2-2-0) at BLACKHAWKS (2-0-0)

TV: SN, CSN-CH

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have come into this season with a goal of shooting the puck more while on the power play, and through two games it's paid off.

Heading into a game Wednesday against the Calgary Flames at United Center, the Blackhawks are 2-for-9 in man-advantage situations and have scored a power-play goal in each of their first two games, both by forward Patrick Sharp off point shots.

Sharp, who finished second in the NHL with a career-high 313 shots last season, again is leading Chicago in that category with 13. Only now he and other point men on the power-play units appear to be launching shots from long range more often than recent seasons. It's part of the overall strategy created by new Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, who heads up the power play in practices.

"We've talked a little bit about it," Sharp said. "I think it's just the philosophy of our power play. I mean, I've always been a player that has a lot of shots, whether it's 5-on-5 or on the power play. That's my job out there."

Sharp, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and center Brad Richards, Chicago's current point men, all are taking that job to heart. They're firing pucks from the outside and early returns show they're getting more of those shots through traffic. In the past that's been an issue. It led to a hesitancy to take shots and fed the Blackhawks' desire to create "pretty plays," which often burn time and don't lead to any production.

As they're finding out, getting the puck to the net usually creates havoc and can create prime scoring chances for those high-skill players.

"I think it has a lot to do with the [point men] and how their mentality is," right wing Patrick Kane said after the morning skate Wednesday. "They're trying to shoot the puck, which is good because the first couple shots, even if it doesn't go in, it's going to open something up to where you can have some seam passes and plays where you can kind of maybe set up some other things. It's been a good part of our power play so far, getting shots through."

Expect more of the same against the Flames, who come into the game ranked 28th in the League in penalty killing (61.5 percent). Despite preventing the Nashville Predators from scoring on two power plays in a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena, the Flames have allowed five power-play goals in 13 opportunities.

Calgary goalie Karri Ramo, who's off to a nice start with a 2-0-0 record and a 1.92 goals-against average, started against the Predators but isn't expected to get the start Wednesday. The Flames, who didn't hold a morning skate in the middle of their second back-to-back, likely will start Jonas Hiller, who has lost his two starts. He has a 3.53 GAA and .901 save percentage.

No matter who starts, the Flames goalie should expect to see the Blackhawks loading up to shoot as much as possible, particularly on the man-advantage.

"Everybody does film now and they're all good at getting in the lanes and blocking shots and using their sticks," Keith said. "So I think the simpler we keep our power play the better off we are. And I think that starts with just thinking 'shot' first."

Here are the projected lineups:

FLAMES

Jiri Hudler - Sean Monahan - Devin Setoguchi

Curtis Glencross - Mikael Backlund - Paul Byron

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Lance Bouma

Mason Raymond - Joe Colborne - Johnny Gaudreau

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman

Kris Russell - Raphael Diaz

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Brian McGrattan

Injured: David Jones (lower body), Corey Potter (shoulder surgery), Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery) Deryk Engelland (lower body)

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Ben Smith

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Jeremy Morin

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Johnny Oduya - David Rundblad

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Kyle Cumiskey

Injured: Michal Rozsival (upper body), Kris Versteeg (lower body)

Status report: The Blackhawks are targeting Saturday against the Nashville Predators for the possible return of Rozsival. … Bouma took a hard hit by Paul Gaustad against Nashville on Tuesday but is set to play against the Blackhawks. … Engelland (lower body) was injured against Nashville and won't play. … Bollig is set to play his first game at United Center since being traded by the Blackhawks to the Flames during the summer.

Who's hot: Sharp has two goals and each was scored on power plays off point shots. Kane led the Blackhawks with five points (four goals) against the Flames last season, and has a team-high 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) in 25 career games against Calgary. … Stajan led the Flames with four points (two goals, two assists) in three games against the Blackhawks last season.

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