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Flames-Blackhawks Preview @NHL

A five-day layoff has left the Chicago Blackhawks eager to return to home ice where they have yet to lose in regulation this season.

The surging Blackhawks look to continue their home success while trying for a fourth straight victory overall Sunday night when they host the Calgary Flames, the last team to beat them in regulation at the United Center.

This is Chicago's first game since it opened a five-game homestand Monday with a 6-2 victory over Colorado. The Blackhawks close this month with a two-week, six-game road trip starting Nov. 18 against Phoenix.

"It's pretty easy (to get back into the swing of things)," forward Patrick Sharp told the Blackhawks' official Web site. "The guys were anxious to get out there. It's been too long without a game."

Off to their best start since 2001-02, the Blackhawks (6-3-3) have reason to be excited to get back in action, looking to improve on their 5-0-2 home mark. Chicago has won two in a row at home, where it has outscored its opponents 29-16 this season.

"So far we've been pretty good at home," said left wing Andrew Ladd, who had two goals and an assist against Colorado. "Something we've stressed as a team is to make it hard for other teams to come into this building."

Sharp added two goals with an assist, while Patrick Kane had two assists giving him a team-leading nine on the season for the Blackhawks, who are 10-0-2 at the United Center dating to a 4-2 regulation loss to Calgary on March 16.

"We talked about how we want to gather up as many points as we can in this homestand," said Sharp, who leads Chicago with nine goals and 16 points. "It was a good first game. We're learning how to win games."

Though Nikolai Khabibulin made 24 saves Monday to improve to 4-1-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average, Cristobal Huet could make his first start since beating Columbus on Nov. 1. Signed to a four-year contract in July, Huet is 2-2-1 with a 2.73 GAA, but is 1-4-0 with a tie and a 2.96 GAA against Calgary.

These teams split the four-game season series in 2007-08 with the visiting club winning each contest, but the Flames have won three straight in Chicago and are 4-0-1 there since a 2-0 loss on Jan. 26, 2006.

Calgary (8-6-1) will try to avoid a third straight road loss overall after falling 3-1 at Columbus on Saturday, its third loss in four games since winning six in a row.

"We weren't smart and didn't get skating like we can," said Calgary's Jarome Iginla, who scored his third goal in two games, giving him a team-high nine on the season.

Iginla had a goal in the last meeting between the teams in March.

"You've got to be aware with him on the ice," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Iginla. "He's a threat one-on-one, he's got a big shot and he's one of those power forward who uses his strength and positioning to his advantage."

Miikka Kiprusoff was rested for the first time this season on Saturday while Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves. Kiprusoff is 8-5-1 with a 3.14 GAA this season and 8-4-2 with a tie and a 2.23 GAA versus the Blackhawks.

EA SPORTS NHL09 Game Predictions
Calgary 4
Chicago  5
Three Stars
G: 3 | A: 1

G: 2 | A: 3

G: 2 | A: 1


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