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Blackhawks-Flames Preview

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Blackhawks-Flames Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (13-20-4) at Calgary Flames (23-12-4).

TIME: Monday, 3 p.m. EST.

The Chicago Blackhawks couldn't wait to say goodbye to 2005.

Looking to end a six-game losing streak, Chicago tries to start a turnaround in 2006 when it takes on the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Blackhawks have three straight wins over the Flames, including a 5-2 victory Nov. 18. Since then, however, Chicago has won just five of 18 games, scoring three goals or less in 15 of those contests.

The Blackhawks fell behind 3-0 in the first period Friday and lost 3-2 to Columbus. Mark Bell and Martin Lapointe scored for Chicago, but the Blue Jackets got 41 saves from Marc Denis to hold on for the victory.

Five of the Blackhawks' six losses during the slide have come at the United Center.

"We're real fragile now," Blackhawks captain Adrian Aucoin said. "We're working hard. We've just got to get our confidence up."

Craig Anderson, starting in place of the injured Nikolai Khabibulin, made 18 saves for Chicago on Friday. Khabibulin suffered a pulled groin against St. Louis on Wednesday and is day-to-day.

Tyler Arnason had an assist to push his team-best point total to 30 and his point streak to four games. Arnason has one goal and seven assists in 10 games against the Flames.

Chicago, which has scored 12 goals and allowed 23 during its losing streak, hopes to get an offensive boost from recently acquired right wing Radim Vrbata. Obtained Friday from Carolina for future considerations, Vrbata has 48 goals and 95 points in 224 games.

"Offense has been a bit of a struggle with the injuries we've had," Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "Vrbata has good skating ability and will add more skill to our lineup."

The first-place Flames have won consecutive games and are 2-1 on a five-game homestand.

Shean Donovan and Daymond Langkow each had two goals, and Kristian Huselius scored with 1:15 left in the third period to lift Calgary to a 6-5 win over Edmonton on Saturday.

The victory moved the Flames two points ahead of the Oilers into sole possession of the top spot in the Northwest Division.

Huselius' winning goal caromed off two Edmonton defensemen following Jarome Iginla's faceoff win, surprising Oilers goalie Jussi Markkanen.

"It was a big draw by 'Iggy,"' Huselius said. "I just turned around and had a great opportunity to take a shot and I just tried to get it on net. I was lucky it went in, but if you shoot at the net, it's going to happen sometimes."

Huselius has produced since being acquired from Florida on Dec. 2, totaling four goals and 14 points in 12 games.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 30 points, 3rd place, 25 PB, Central Division. Flames - 50 points, 1st place, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Bell, 15 goals; Arnason, 20 assists and 30 points; Todd Simpson, 97 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 15 goals and 31 points; Andrew Ference, 17 assists; Jason Wiemer, 65 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blackhawks - Power play: 13.9 percent (30 for 216), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.3 percent (242 for 287), 9th. Flames - Power play: 17.4 percent (41 for 236), 16th. Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (197 for 242), 17th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Anderson (2-3-1, 3.81 GAA); Khabibulin (11-17-3, 3.34). Flames - Miikka Kiprusoff (20-10-4, 5 SO, 2.35); Philippe Sauve (3-2-0, 2.62).

SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 18; Blackhawks, 5-2. At Calgary, Alberta, Bell and Mark Cullen each had two goals as the Blackhawks ended the Flames' eight-game winning streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 6-12-3 on the road; Flames - 14-4-2 at home.


Associated Press

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