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Flames try to burn Blackhawks again

by David Kalan

BLACKHAWKS (17-4-4) at FLAMES (8-11-4)


Last 10: Chicago 8-2-0; Calgary 3-5-2

Season series: Not many teams can claim to have gotten the better of the Chicago Blackhawks this season, but the Calgary Flames are one of them. The Flames beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime in their only previous meeting this season on Nov. 3 at United Center.

Big story: As the Blackhawks begin the homestretch of their annual "Circus Trip," they'll visit a Flames team that has points in each of its past three games. Rookie goaltender Antti Raanta will be making his first NHL start.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: The Blackhawks have been tasked with holding off their closest competitors in the tight Central Division while playing seven in a row on the road. So far, so good. After losing 5-1 to the Colorado Avalanche in the first game of the trip, Chicago has won three games in a row.

The Blackhawks were dominant Monday night in a 5-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers. They overwhelmed the Oilers with two goals in the first half of the first and second periods on Monday night, jumping out to a 4-0 lead before the game was halfway over.

Corey Crawford has started all four games on the trip and hasn't had a full game off since Oct. 24. With games against the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes still to come before his team returns to United Center, Quenneville decided that the time was right to give Raanta his first NHL start.

"For sure, it's his turn. We're excited about him getting into the net," Quenneville said. "It'll be a good challenge for him, a good test."

The Blackhawks should have star forward Marian Hossa back in the lineup; he missed the past two games with a personal matter.

Flames: The Flames have been off since their 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers this past Friday, a victory that extended their unbeaten streak in regulation to three games (2-0-1).

But beating the Panthers is one thing. Challenging the defending Stanley Cup champions is another.

A victory against the Blackhawks would be a surer sign of the team's improvement, and a stronger one in the eyes of Flames coach Bob Hartley. The Stanley Cup-winning coach did not mince words about his team's preparedness at practice on Tuesday.

"As a coaching staff, you certainly don't want to look at this that way but if you're not ready against those teams, you're going to get a major spanking," Hartley said. "That's the way it is. I think it brings the best out of everyone but over here, we're cultivating a new culture and we want everyone good every night."

Reto Berra, who made 42 saves in beating the Blackhawks in Chicago, will be in goal on Wednesday. It will be his 10th start in 11 games since being called up from Abbotsford of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Andrew Shaw has three goals and an assist in his past two games for Chicago. ... One person who has used both of Calgary's shootout wins to good effect was rookie Sean Monahan, who scored the winner in the shootout's sixth round against Florida and in the eighth round against the Winnipeg Jets four nights earlier.

Injury report: Chicago forward Bryan Bickell (lower body), defenseman Michael Kostka (lower body) and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) are out. … The Flames have been without forward Curtis Glencross (knee injury) and defenseman Mark Giordano (broken ankle). Forward TJ Galiardi is also unlikely to play after leaving practice on Monday with back spasms. He didn't come to the rink on Tuesday.

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