FLAMES (11-13-2) at BLACKHAWKS (14-12-2)
TV -- NHLN-US (HD), SNET-CGY (HD), WGN (HD)
Last 10 --
Calgary 4-4-2; Chicago 6-3-1
Season series --
The Flames took their only meeting so far this season with the Blackhawks in a big way, beating up Chicago 7-2 on Nov. 19 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Big Story --
As Calgary looks to climb back into the West playoff discussion, they would do well to get their second win this year against Chicago, which is looking to heal its bruised ego after a frustrating loss to Vancouver Friday.
To say this season has been a tough one in Calgary would be an understatement, but despite the Flames' struggles, with nearly three quarters of the season left to play and a stunningly tight Western Conference, a playoff berth is still very much within reach if they can manage to turn their fortunes. Calgary is just five points out of the West's top eight despite being second-to-last in the conference, but making a climb up the standings will require a significant turnaround. Calgary has won three of its last five games, including a 3-2 shootout victory in Minnesota on Friday, but the Flames have just one regulation win in their last eight outings.
Calgary got a strong performance from backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson
against the Wild Friday, but starter Miikka Kiprusoff
is likely to get the call in Chicago. That may be a mixed blessing for the Flames, who will need a better Kipper than they've seen lately. The Finnish native has lost 10 of his last 14 starts and gave up seven goals to Vancouver in his last appearance on Dec. 1. While Calgary's offense isn't among the best in the League, contributors like Alex Tanguay
(6 points in his last five games) and Jarome Iginla
(4 points in his last three games) have been giving the Flames' netminders more than enough to work with.
After enduring their own inconsistent start to the season, the Hawks appeared to be getting back into the swing of things after posting a three-game winning streak to close out November. But that era of good feelings hit a wall Friday in the form of Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo, who turned aside all 32 Chicago shots, as the Blackhawks fell 3-0. With the Blackhawks tied with Anaheim for the most games played in the Western Conference, they'll need to pick up points wherever they can to prevent being usurped by another postseason contender. If they're looking to re-establish themselves, December would be a good time. The Hawks play nine of 12 games at the United Center this month.
More important than what ice they play on, however, may be who is guarding the goal on it. Presumptive starter Marty Turco has had a year just as up and down as his team, but Chicago may have a real find in backup Corey Crawford
. While Turco surrendered three goals on 18 shots against Vancouver Friday, Crawford has won his last five starts. With their goalies going in opposite directions, it seems likely that Crawford will get his fourth start in the last five games when the Flames come to town Sunday.
Who's Hot --
Prior to Friday's blanking against Vancouver, Patrick Sharp
had a three-game streak of games with two points for Chicago. … In Calgary, blueliner Mark Giordano
has been chipping in with a three-game point streak.
Injury Report --
Chicago is still coping with the loss of winger Marian Hossa
, who will miss the next 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury. The Hawks may also be without Fernando Pisani, who is questionable with an upper-body injury.
Stat Pack --
Is age catching up with Turco? Prior to this season, the former All-Star has compiled a .911 save percentage to go along with his 2.31 goals-against average over nine seasons in Dallas. This year, however, Turco has recorded a .901 save percentage and a surprisingly high 2.90 GAA despite having a defense in front of him that includes bruiser Brent Seabrook
and Norris Trophy-winner Duncan Keith
Puck Drop --
With one team looking to stay in the postseason race and another trying to get back into it, Sunday's showdown has high stakes for a game in early December. Chicago has won eight of its last nine regular season games against Calgary -- an ominous portent for the Flames -- but with Iginla and crew winning their one game so far this season against the Hawks, Calgary is hoping it has begun to reverse the trend.