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Blackhawks hope to keep home streak alive vs. Blues

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are on a roll coming into their home opener Tuesday at United Center against the St. Louis Blues.

They also have a trend going in their favor in this heated Central Division rivalry, at least on paper.

Dating to Feb. 3, 2010, the Blues (2-0-0) -- who are tied with the Blackhawks (2-0-0) atop the Central with four points -- are winless in Chicago. The team will have its annual red-carpet arrival event prior to the game for fans to cheer the Blackhawks players and celebrate the start of a new home slate, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock knows his team won't be afforded the same hospitality.

"We usually get our [butts] kicked in this building," Hitchcock said following the team's optional morning practice.

St. Louis is winless in seven straight and is 1-5-4 in its past 10 visits to United Center. Asked about their run of success at home against the Blues, the Blackhawks didn't think it mattered too much.

In fact, those asked about it didn't even know how long it had been since the Blues had won a game at United Center -- Feb. 3, 2010.

"I didn't even really pay attention to that, to be honest," defenseman Duncan Keith told "Every game against St. Louis is a tough game. They've got a lot of guys who compete hard over there and we're excited about the challenge. You have to play a good game against them, a patient game."

Chicago forward Patrick Kane, who had a goal and added three assists in the first two games, said he thinks the matchup game might play into the lopsided numbers in his team's favor on home ice.

"[The Blues] are very tough to play in their own building and sometimes when you get them here, you get your own matchups and feed off the crowd a little bit," Kane said. "Usually in those games there's a lot of intensity and you can really use that to your advantage. I think tonight's going to be more of the same tonight."

Hitchcock agreed and expected his team to get another good early-season test, one night after a shootout victory over the Nashville Predators that he compared to a Stanley Cup Playoff game in terms of intensity.

"We just want to play well," Hitchcock said when asked about St. Louis' struggles in the Windy City the past few years. "Where Chicago tests you is … defensively. They test your composure under fire. You're not going to get away with giving up double-digit scoring chances. They're just too good. You're going to have to figure out a way to negate those as much as possible, and that's the challenge. Our challenge is to see what we can take away and make them uncomfortable."

Here's a look at how the Blackhawks likely will line up:

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Viktor Stalberg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Ray Emery

Injured: Daniel Carcillo, Steve Montador

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Jamal Mayers

Lineup notes: Crawford will get the start in net, according to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks did not skate forward lines Tuesday, so it's possible Quenneville might opt to make some minor tweaks against the physically imposing Blues. Possible changes could include swapping scrappy veteran -- and former Blues player -- Jamal Mayers for fourth-line center Marcus Kruger. Chicago, however, has been pleased with Kruger's play thus far at that spot.

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