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Blackhawks-Hurricanes Preview

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Blackhawks-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (12-14-2) at Carolina Hurricanes (18-9-2).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes return to the RBC Center after their longest road trip of the season to begin a season-high five-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Hurricanes went 3-2-1 on their trip through Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. They have not played at home since Nov. 27, although a return to Raleigh may not be cause for optimism.

After winning its first seven home games of the season, Carolina is 2-4 in its last six at RBC, allowing 24 goals in the four defeats.

The Hurricanes closed their trip with a 4-3 loss to the Sharks on Saturday night. Carolina had a season-low two power-play opportunities, with Rod Brind'Amour scoring on one of them. The Hurricanes have nine power-play goals in the last six games.

Carolina managed to kill off two 5-on-3 penalties in the first period and have not been scored on in eight two-man disadvantages this season. The Hurricanes, though, gave up goals to Nils Ekman and Jonathan Cheechoo 32 seconds apart early in the third to fall behind 4-1. San Jose held on to win despite goals from Carolina's Eric Staal and Craig Adams.

"We got into penalty trouble and lost it from there," Adams said. "We couldn't make anything work."

Staal's goal came short-handed and gave him three goals and three assists in his last four games.

Brind'Amour has a six-game point streak against Chicago, with two goals and nine assists during that span.

Rookie center Michael Holmqvist scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give Chicago a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday, its second in a row. The Blackhawks have played four consecutive games that have gone past regulation.

"I didn't think about the game possibly being on my stick," Holmqvist said. "I just saw my opportunity when my teammates missed and I took it."

Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 12 minutes. The Blackhawks had not scored more than three goals in their last seven outings, managing just 14 goals in that span.

Pavel Vorobiev had two goals in the first period and scored in the shootout, snapping a seven-game goal drought.

Nikolai Khabibulin earned the win in his 500th game with 33 saves. The victory was the first in five road games for Khabibulin, who is 4-9-1 with a 3.75 goals-against average away from the United Center this season. He has a 2.01 GAA in 17 games against the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes are 5-0-1 in their last six meetings with the Blackhawks.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 12): Blackhawks - 26 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Central Division. Hurricanes - 38 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 11 goals; Tyler Arnason, 16 assists and 22 points; Matthew Barnaby, 68 PIM. Hurricanes - Staal, 21 goals, 21 assists and 42 points; Mike Commodore, 57 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 12): Blackhawks - Power play: 14.8 percent (25 for 168), tied for 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent (187 for 225), 11th. Hurricanes - Power play: 19.4 percent (35 for 180), 8th. Penalty killing: 78.4 percent (131 for 167), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (10-13-1, 3.21 GAA); Craig Anderson (2-1-1, 3.94). Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (12-6-1, 2 SO, 2.61); Cam Ward (6-3-1, 4.05).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: March 17, 2004; Hurricanes, 3-2. At Chicago, the Hurricanes had a season-high 49 shots on goal, and Erik Cole scored the game-winner with 4:22 left in the third period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 6-10-2 on the road; Hurricanes - 9-4-0 at home.


Associated Press
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