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Blackhawks-Thrashers Preview

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Blackhawks-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (11-14-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (11-16-3).

TIME: Sunday, 2 p.m. EST.

With Ilya Kovalchuk and Marc Savard both in goal-scoring slumps, the Atlanta Thrashers looked elsewhere to end a four-game losing streak.

Ronald Petrovicky will try to build off his first career hat trick when Atlanta meets the Chicago Blackhawks.

Petrovicky was recently benched for six games by Thrashers coach Bob Hartley and had just one point in three games since his return.

"(Hartley) was trying to send a message, to me and to all the other guys, that we have to work hard to be in the lineup," Petrovicky said. "You have to keep working hard, keep improving and play the game the right way."

Petrovicky's offensive outburst came at a time when two of Atlanta's best players are slumping.

Kovalchuk has four assists in his last two games, but hasn't scored in a season-high six straight games. Savard has just one goal and one assist at in his last five games.

Both players, however, had breakout games in their last meeting against the Blackhawks in 2003. Kovalchuk had a hat trick and Savard added a goal and three assists in a 7-2 rout.

The Thrashers are looking for two straight home wins for the first time since Nov.9-11 when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I think we have a good schedule the end of December and we're really going to take advantage of it," Hartley said.

Atlanta plays six of its next eight games at Philips Arena.

The Blackhawks have dropped five straight on the road, including a shootout loss Dec. 2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning and an overtime setback the next night to the Florida Panthers.

This contest begins a three-game road swing for the Blackhawks, who have not won away from the United Center since a 4-3 win Nov. 19 over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blackhawks have managed just nine goals during its road skid. They scored 13 goals in a three-game road winning streak prior to it.

Chicago is coming off a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday over the New York Rangers. Nikolai Khabibulin made 30 saves and Tyler Arnason snapped a 13-game goal scoring drought with the game-winner 80 seconds into overtime.

"I haven't been scoring lately, so I tried not to aim it too much," Arnason said. "I just shot it as hard as I possibly could and it found a way in."

Arnason has two goals, including a game-winner, and two assists in two career games against Atlanta.

The teams have split four games in Atlanta.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 10): Blackhawks - 24 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Central Division. Thrashers - 25 points, 3rd place, 13 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 11 goals and 21 points; Kyle Calder and Arnason, 13 assists; Matthew Barnaby, 68 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 17 goals; Savard, 27 assists; Kovalchuk and Savard, 39 points; Andy Sutton, 60 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 10): Blackhawks - Power play: 15.2 percent (25 for 164), tied for 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83 percent (181 for 218), tied for 11th. Thrashers - Power play: 20 percent (44 for 219), 5th. Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (156 for 199), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (9-13-1, 0 SO, 3.18 GAA); Craig Anderson (2-1-1, 3.94). Thrashers - Michael Garnett (4-7-1, 3.92); Adam Berkhoel (2-4-0, 4.08).

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

LAST MEETING: Oct. 18, 2003; Thrashers, 7-2. At Atlanta, Kovalchuk and Savard combined for seven points in the rout. Arnason and Steve Sullivan scored for the Blackhawks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 5-10-2 on the road; Thrashers - 6-7-1 at home.


Associated Press
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