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'Canes try to cool off red-hot Hawks

by Deborah Francisco

HURRICANES (31-25-9) AT BLACKHAWKS (35-23-6)

TV -- FS-Carolinas (HD); CSN-Chicago+ (HD)

Last 10 -- Carolina 5-3-2; Chicago 7-1-2

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting between the Hurricanes and Blackhawks this season. The Hurricanes won their only meeting last season in a 4-2 decision on Jan. 20 thanks to a spectacular performance by Cam Ward between the pipes. Ward stopped 39 shots in that game to complete a six-day stretch in which he made 129 of 134 saves.

Big story -- The playoffs are within reach for both of these teams, making this match key. The Hawks have won five in a row to move into the top eight in the West with 76 points. Carolina comes to the United Center after a 3-2 OT win against Buffalo on Thursday moved the 'Canes into seventh in the East.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes -- With four points on the line in Thursday night's contest with the Buffalo Sabres, who trailed Carolina by just two points prior to the game, the Hurricanes twice overcame one-goal deficits in the second period before Jamie McBain scored the game-winning goal 26 seconds into OT to move the Hurricanes up one rung in the Eastern Conference race.

"This is why you play the game - for games like this and these playoff-mentality tight games in a tight playoff race," McBain said. "These are fun ones to be a part of."

Blackhawks -- The Hawks have won six straight games to climb into the playoff mix in the West after bobbing around the cutoff line for most of the season. Patrick Kane says the defending Stanley Cup champs have increased their focus as the season enters the homestretch.

"Right now everybody realizes the importance of the situation we're in and it seems like every game is a must-win," Kane said. "I think we're just bearing down, more focused and more concentrated on one game at a time. That's probably been the key to the success."

Another huge component to the Hawks' success has been the scorching play of captain Jonathan Toews who notched two goals, including the game-winner, in Chicago's 6-4 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Who's hot -- Carolina's Erik Cole has 5 points in as many games and he tied with Eric Staal for the most game-winning goals on the team with seven. .. Toews has 6 goals and 13 points during a seven-game points streak.

Injury report -- There are no injuries to report for the Hurricanes… The Blackhawks announced Monday that defenseman Jordan Hendry will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and Fernando Pisani is day to day with a concussion.

Stat pack -- Staal leads the NHL in total faceoffs taken (1,379) but Toews is the League leader in wins (719).

Puck drop -- "We're not doing it as a streak by any means," Toews said. "We've been doing a great job of taking one game at a time, especially coming back from the All-Star break. It's been since then that we've gradually gotten better every night. It's easy to notice a player when the pucks are going in. I wouldn't say a lot has changed in my game."

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