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Busy Blackhawks make next stop on trip vs. Senators

by David Kalan
BLACKHAWKS (34-11-4) at SENATORS (25-21-4)

Last 10: Chicago 8-1-1; Ottawa 5-5-0

Season Series: This will be the only meeting of the season for Chicago and Ottawa. The Hawks took the only matchup last year, a 2-0 win on Dec. 10 at the United Center.

Big Story:
The Hawks will look to keep climbing in the standings as they hit the third stop of their season-high eight-game road trip to face the streaking Senators.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: The Hawks can be forgiven if they come out a little tired Tuesday. Chicago will be playing its fourth game in six days Tuesday in Ottawa. The Hawks' trek began this weekend when they took both ends of a back-to-back against division rivals in Columbus and Detroit. While Nashville has had an impressive first half of the season, the Hawks are beginning to pull away from the pack in the Central. Chicago has an 11-point lead over the second-place Predators and the priorities may have shifted from winning the division to jostling with San Jose for the West's top seed.

With more than half of their road trip yet to be played, the Hawks will need whatever boosts they can get along the way to keep from letting the exhaustion catch up to them. With that in mind, Patrick Kane has gotten back to his productive ways just in time, breaking out with three assists Saturday against the Jackets and a goal Sunday in Detroit. Kane had gone two games without a point for the first time in three months. Chicago's offense is also being bolstered by Patrick Sharp, who has six points in the last five games.

Senators: Ottawa is returning home from a lengthy road trip of its own. The Sens polished off a five-game swing Monday afternoon with a 5-1 trouncing of Boston, as Daniel Alfredsson provided all the necessary offense with his first hat trick of the year. It was only the second game back for Alfredsson, who recently missed more than three weeks with a separated shoulder. The Sens have now won three straight after snapping a five-game losing streak.

Despite that skid, Ottawa is still tied with Boston for fifth in the East. While the Sens have gotten contributions from Alfredsson and Mike Fisher, who has six points in the last three games, their place in the standings is even more impressive considering Ottawa's revolving door between the pipes recently. With Pascal Leclaire out with a concussion and Brian Elliott battling the flu, minor-league call-up Mike Brodeur was pressed into action and responded with two wins and a 1.00 goals-against average. Unfortunately for Brodeur, the flu bug has now moved onto him. If he can't recover for Tuesday night, expect Elliott to get the call for the second day in a row.

Who's Hot: Alex Kovalev had been fairly quiet since a four-goal outburst on Jan. 3, but perhaps not coincidentally, the veteran winger has a point in each game of the Sens' current three-game winning streak. For Chicago, Troy Brouwer has continued his strong January by tallying a goal and an assist in each of the last two games.

Injury Report: Brodeur missed Ottawa's win over Boston Monday with flu-like symptoms, while Leclaire is still out with a concussion. Elliott and Filip Kuba did make their returns to the lineup Monday and should be available against Chicago. The Hawks should have a full lineup.

Stat Pack: Cristobal Huet has won five of his last six starts and hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 22, but despite his stellar season the netminder has shown cracks of late. While he pitched a shutout against Columbus last Thursday, that start was bookended by two starts in which Huet gave up five goals.

Puck Drop:
As their road swing moves along, the challenges will only get tougher for the Hawks. Chicago has run a busy schedule of late, and it seems surprising that the Hawks don't appear worn down just yet. Still, as they begin to run into teams playing well, as the Sens are, the grind of the trip could begin to take its toll.

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