FLAMES (17-12-2) at BLACKHAWKS (20-9-1)
TV: NHLN-US, CITY; CSN-CH
CHICAGO -- The Calgary Flames have lost a season-high four straight games heading into their game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday.
The Flames have dropped the first three games on their current four-game road trip. A team that surprised many with a strong start is now faced with arguably its biggest challenge to date.
"This is as big of a test as you can get," veteran center Matt Stajan said Sunday. "When you're rolling along and winning games, it's easy. You get the bounces and things are going right. Right now, we're fighting it a bit. We're working hard. We're in every game. We've just got to get that timely goal like we were getting a month ago."
During the losing streak, the Flames have been outscored 14-7 despite outshooting each opponent, including a 45-19 advantage in a 4-3 loss Thursday at the Buffalo Sabres. That was similar to the game Calgary won against the Blackhawks on Oct. 15 in Chicago, when the Flames won 2-1 in overtime and were outshot 50-18.
Goalie Jonas Hiller made 49 saves in that game to earn his first win with the Flames. He will be back in goal Sunday.
"Obviously that's one of the games that Hiller stole for us," Stajan said. "It's no secret. We know that. We stole two points from here. I think there's been games we've deserved to win and we haven't won in the last few weeks, so it all evens out. These are the tests you've got to overcome. You've got to stop these losing streaks as quick as you can, so that you don't lose too much ground."
The Blackhawks had an eight-game winning streak stopped Saturday at the New York Islanders after coughing up a 2-1 third-period lead. They didn't hold a skate Sunday, but did trade forward Jeremy Morin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for 23-year old defenseman Tim Erixon.
Morin, 23, hadn't played in the past 20 games, since the Blackhawks defeated the Flames 4-3 on Nov. 20 in Calgary. He was sent on a conditioning assignment Dec. 9 and, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, asked to either play with the Blackhawks or be traded.
The trade was announced Sunday, giving the Blackhawks another young defenseman for the third pairing. Erixon, who will play against the Flames, has 13 points in 70 career games with the Blue Jackets and New York Rangers.
"I knew something was going to happen," said Erixon, who was originally selected by the Flames with the 23rd pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. "I mean we were [at] nine or 10 [defensemen] there, so I knew something was going to happen. I didn't know it was going to be me or who it was going to be, but I figured something had to happen. It was a bit of a surprise for sure.
Morin was acquired by the Blackhawks in a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers days after Chicago won the 2010 Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks sent forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, forward Ben Eager, defenseman Brent Sopel and forward prospect Akim Aliu to Atlanta for Morin, forward Marty Reasoner, forward prospect Joey Crabb and two picks in the 2010 draft.
Morin finished his time in Chicago with no points in 15 games this season and 16 points (eight goals) in 54 games for his career.
"I think it's a situation that probably will be really good for both teams," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "[Morin], I'm sure he can help [Columbus]. They [had] more defensemen than they could play there and there's definitely some positioning up front with some of the injuries they've had. I hope [Morin] does well."
Here are the projected lineups:
Joe Colborne - Markus Granlund - Paul Byron
Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - David Jones
Johnny Gaudreau - Josh Jooris - Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Mason Raymond
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman
Raphael Diaz - Deryk Engelland
Scratched: Corey Potter, Brian McGrattan, Brandon Bollig
Injured: Mikael Backlund (upper body), Ladislav Smid (upper body)
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Tim Erixon - Michal Rozsival
Scratched: David Rundblad
Injured: Corey Crawford (lower body)
Status report: Crawford and Raanta went through on-ice drills in the morning with Rundblad, assistant coach Mike Kitchen and goaltending coach Jimmy Waite. ... Potter joined the Flames on Saturday in Chicago. ... Hartley said Smid, who was placed on injured reserve, could be out "awhile" after leaving a game Friday following a hit late in the second period by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres.
Who's hot: Kane has scored a goal in back-to-back games ... Giordano had a six-game points streak snapped in the loss to the Penguins on Friday. He has recorded at least a point in 24 of Calgary's 31 games.