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Blues-Blackhawks Preview @NHL

A season that started with a lot of promise has quickly fallen apart for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks will try to avoid losing their ninth straight game Friday when they host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center.

Playing its first game in a week, Chicago (4-9-1) lost 2-1 in a shootout Thursday to the New Jersey Devils. Tuomo Ruutu's first goal of the season tied the score at 1 midway through the first period, and goaltender Brian Boucher made 15 saves over the final two periods and overtime.

In the shootout, though, Boucher gave up goals to Zach Parise and Brian Gionta - the only skaters he faced - while Rene Bourque and Mikael Holmqvist were unable to get the puck past Devils counterpart Martin Brodeur.

Coach Trent Yawney tried to stay positive despite not having a win since Oct. 18.

"There were a lot of good things out there," he said. "Once we got out legs under us after the first period, we played pretty solid against a real good team."

The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 during the skid, and have failed to score a power-play goal in their last 24 chances spanning six games. Last season, Chicago lost 10 in a row from Dec. 18-Jan. 8. The franchise record for the longest losing streak is 12, set from Feb. 25-March 25, 1951.

Though he's missed seven games with a high ankle sprain, Martin Havlat still leads the team with seven goals. Yawney told the Web site that Havlat will miss 2 to 3 more weeks.

Also according to the Web site, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who's missed six games in a row with a broken finger, may not return until Sunday's game against Columbus.

If so, Yawney will have to decide between Boucher and backup Sebastien Caron in goal.

Despite a respectable 3.38 goals-against average, Boucher is 0-7-1 and still seeking his first win since playing with Calgary in February. Caron has yet to appear in a game since being recalled Oct. 22 from Norfolk of the AHL.

St Louis (4-7-3) lost for the fifth time in six games after falling to Columbus 4-2 on Thursday in a game where all six goals were scored in the second period.

Keith Tkachuk's goal with less than 12 minutes to play gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. But goaltender Manny Legace gave up two tallies to Rostislav Klesla and a short-handed goal to Dan Fristche in a 5:09 span.

"I just had a horrible second period. I let the guys down," said Legace, who was replaced by Curtis Sanford to start the third period.

Bill Guerin, who opened the scoring, has four goals in a three-game streak. Tkachuk has scored all four of his goals in the last five games, and has seven points during a five-game run.

St Louis has already beaten Chicago twice this season. On Oct. 14 in St. Louis, Radek Dvorak scored his first goal of the season 6:18 into the third period to give the Blues a 4-3 win.

A week later in Chicago, Petr Cajanek scored the go-ahead goal 2:57 into the third period to lift St. Louis to another 4-3 win. The Blues have not won two games in Chicago since the 1998-99 season.

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