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Hawks face Flames, try to build off convincing win

by David Kalan
BLACKHAWKS (10-9-2) at FLAMES (7-10-0)


Last 10 --
Chicago 4-5-1; Calgary 3-7-0

Season series --
This is the first meeting of the season for Chicago and Calgary. The Blackhawks swept last year's series, 4-0, taking the last game 4-1 on April 4 at the United Center.

Big story -- After dominating Edmonton on Wednesday night, the Hawks will look build momentum off a successful start to their annual circus trip with Friday's showdown in Calgary.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks --
If captain Jonathan Toews wanted to prove his recent four-game point drought was of no concern, he provided convincing evidence Wednesday night. Toews snapped out of his funk with a natural hat trick, as the Blackhawks opened their trip with a 5-0 win over the Oilers. For Chicago, which had lost five of its previous six games before winning its last two, Wednesday was a much-needed boost for a team that has struggled to maintain the hot play that carried it to a title this June.

The Hawks' offensive outburst may have obscured an equally as impressive display on defense. While goaltender Marty Turco notched the 41st shutout of his career, a lockdown defense held down what is a dangerous, albeit young Oilers squad, surrendering a mere 18 shots. After picking up his eight win of the season, however, Turco may get the night off Friday. With Chicago facing off in Vancouver less than 25 hours after the puck drops in Calgary, it seems likely backup Corey Crawford, who was in net for Chicago's 3-2 overtime win over Anaheim Sunday, will get the call for one of the two games.

Flames -- Calgary's recent history with Chicago is not a pretty one. The Flames were ousted from the 2009 postseason by the Blackhawks in six games, and proceeded to blow a five-goal first-period lead in their first regular season meeting early in the 2009-10 season. Calgary, which missed the postseason last this spring for the first time in six seasons, doesn't appear to have recovered from its run-in with Chicago 18 months ago. Calgary currently sits 14th in the Western Conference, and with losses in seven of the Flames' last eight games a turnaround doesn't appear on the horizon.

That turnaround became all the more difficult Thursday when the League handed down a three-game suspension to Olli Jokinen for a cross check to the head of Phoenix's Wojtek Wolski Wednesday night. Jokinen, who is forfeiting $48,387.09 in salary, won't be eligible to return until Nov. 24, putting a strain on an offense which, aside from Rene Bourque's 6 points in the last five games, has had few bright spots. With goalie Miikka Kiprusoff also struggling -- Kipper has given up 10 goals in his last three starts, all losses -- Calgary is badly in need of a breakout performance to get back on track.

Who's hot --
Bryan Bickell has lent the Hawks some unheralded secondary scoring with 3 points in the last four games. … Calgary has gotten strong production from the blue line of late, as defenseman Mark Giordano has 7 points in the last nine games.

Injury report -- Calgary has been running a veritable infirmary in Alberta, with Ales Kotalik (knee), Raitis Ivanans (concussion) and Adam Pardy (shoulder) all on injured reserve. The lack of depth could prove pivotal against the Hawks, who should have a full lineup Friday.

Stat pack --
The Hawks' last two wins and the rough stretch that preceded them should leave no doubt as to who makes the offense go in Chicago. Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa all endured long scoring droughts recently, but in the last two games the quartet has combined for 13 points.

Puck drop --
If Chicago can manage to string together several wins on the current road swing, it may finally set the Hawks off on the run most around the League seem to be waiting for. For Calgary the situation appears much more dire, but with an infusion of new blood the Flames may be able to change the atmosphere and the team's momentum. Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos, who were acquired from Carolina on Wednesday for Ian White and Brett Sutter, are likely to make their first appearance for Calgary on Friday night.

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