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Blackhawks expect road to foster camaraderie, wins

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Though the Chicago Blackhawks own the third-best home record in the NHL, a lengthy stint away from United Center could be the cure for their recent struggles.

The Blackhawks, who are set to embark on a string of six straight away from Chicago before the Olympic break, have been particularly productive on lengthy stints on the road.

"I honestly think it's just the chemistry we have in the locker room," forward Andrew Shaw said. "Being on the road with the guys is always fun. Going into someone else's barn and stealing a couple points is always satisfying. The games aren't going to be the prettiest but as long as we go out there and work things should go our way, that's for sure."

The Blackhawks went 6-1-0 on their annual circus trip in November, when they were forced to vacate their rink in favor of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Early last season Chicago went 4-0-2 on another extended road trip.

And in the middle of a stretch where Chicago has won three of its past 10 games, the timing for a lengthy road swing might be perfect.

"I think our team needs this," Shaw said. "I think we need to focus going into every game playing a better defensive-minded game and tighten it up and finding that chemistry on all four lines again."

The trip starts Tuesday against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

But as captain Jonathan Toews warned, the team can't get too far ahead of itself thinking the road alone will cure the struggles.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he said. "This is the first game of the road trip. I think just being together on the road is something we enjoy. We're a close team and the more time we spend together the best we end up playing.

"I think as a team we need to play better but we're not panicking. We're not losing it in here. We know we're a good team. We'll just get back to those simple things that bring success."

Forward Patrick Kane said the timing of the slump, which has seen the Blackhawks go 3-3-4, might not be such a bad thing.

"May be good to face some adversity now so later down the line if we go through it we can look back to this situation and see what we did right to get out of it," he said. "You want to get out of it as soon as possible so hopefully that comes [Tuesday]."

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Brandon Pirri - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Brandon Saad

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Michael Kostka, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder)


Jiri Hudler - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak

TJ Galiardi - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Kevin Westgarth - Ben Street - Brian McGrattan

TJ Brodie - Mark Giordano

Kris Russell - Chris Butler

Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman

Reto Berra

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Blair Jones, Christopher Breen, Paul Byron

Injured: Mike Cammalleri (concussion), Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain)

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