FLAMES (4-1-0) at BLACKHAWKS (2-1-1)
Season series -- Chicago swept all four meetings with Calgary last season, the most recent being a 5-2 win on February 5, 2009.
Big Story -- The Flames, off to one of the best starts in franchise history, will look to gain a measure of revenge against the Hawks after falling to Chicago in a physical six-game playoff series last season.
Flames -- Calgary will be making its first stop at the United States on the season. The Flames, whose two previous road games were both in Edmonton, were aiming for the first 5-0 start in franchise history Friday night before the Dallas Stars ruined the party at Pengrowth Saddledome.
Despite the 5-2 defeat, Calgary has still been one of the hotter teams in the League. The Flames' quick start has been a product of balanced offense -- every member of the team's active roster has recorded a point -- and strong play in net from Miikka Kiprusoff. In his four starts this year, the Finnish netminder has four wins to go along with a .910 save percentage and a 2.95 goals-against average. It isn't often that the offense doesn't produce -- Calgary has scored at least four goals in all but one game this year -- and with physical blueliners like Dion Phaneuf, who is second on the team in points, the Flames are shaping up to be a formidable contender.
Blackhawks -- The Hawks enter their second home game of the year one point out of first place in the Central Division, but the expected Cup contenders have had to work for it. Two of Chicago's wins have come in shootouts, including a 4-3 victory over Colorado in Saturday night's home opener. While the Hawks came away with two points, they trailed twice against the Avs before Andrew Ladd polished off the win in the ninth round of the shootout, the longest in Chicago's history.
Monday's matchup with the Flames won't be the Blackhawks' first test of the year -- Chicago has already visited defending conference champion Detroit. But Chicago came up just short in that test, a 3-2 loss. The Hawks did outplay the Wings in the final period, but moral victories are no longer satisfactory for a team with such high expectations. A win against the talented Flames would be a nice confidence-builder for the much-hyped but still very young Hawks.
Who's Hot -- Former Blackhawk Rene Bourque has been a big contributor so far for the Flames. Bourque has only been held off the scoresheet once, and has four points in the last two games. Ladd, meanwhile, is more renowned for his grit than his offense, but the physical winger scored his first goal of the year Saturday before sealing Chicago's win with a tally in the shootout.
Injury Report -- David Moss is questionable for Calgary with an upper-body injury. Chicago will be without Ben Eager, who is on injured reserve.
Stat Pack -- In three undistinguished seasons with Chicago, Bourque averaged only .41 points per game. Since joining Calgary for the 2008-09 season, however, he has blossomed into a regularly productive presence on the wing, averaging .75 points per game and seizing the team lead in scoring through five games this year.
Puck Drop -- Calgary and Chicago don't share a divisional rivalry, but there is clearly little love lost after their playoff meeting last season. As the Flames' Eric Nystrom told calgaryflames.com this week, "There was definitely some chippy moments … some guys don't forget that." There has been some turnover on both rosters, but it won't be surprising to see physical play early. Regardless, this is unlikely to be a battle of attrition replete with more punches than points. The Hawks and Flames are both as skilled as they are physical. Monday will be a good measure of how each is playing at this point in the season.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com