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Hawks try to keep rolling vs. Flames

by Frank Mentesana

FLAMES (6-7-1) at BLACKHAWKS (9-4-3)

TV: SNET-West (HD), CSN-Chicago (HD)

Last 10: Calgary 5-4-1; Chicago 5-3-2

Season Series: Friday's contest is the first of four meetings between these clubs, who will meet again next Friday in Calgary. In 2010-11, each team won its two home games, with three games decided by two goals. The only game that wasn't was the Flames' 7-2 rout of the Hawks last November. Each team's captain led the way, as Jarome Iginla topped all scorers with five goals and eight points, and Jonathan Toews paced Chicago with five points.

Big Story: Throughout October, the Blackhawks had not lost consecutive games. However, the first week of November brought them their first losing streak of the season, surrendering 14 goals over three straight defeats to Tampa Bay, Vancouver and St. Louis. A meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday was just what they needed to get back on track. The Hawks knocked off the Jackets 6-3 in Ohio's capital city, and return to Chicago for two games before embarking on a six-game road trip, all against formidable Western Conference opponents.

The Flames, who have alternated wins and losses for the most part, play six of their next eight on the road. They will look to gain some traction as they find themselves in last place in a Northwest Division that has become exponentially more difficult with the surprising play of Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado.

Team Scope:

Flames: Following a 2-1-0 road trip, the Flames returned home on Tuesday and could not cool off the hottest team in the League. The Minnesota Wild notched their fifth straight victory by blanking the Flames 3-0. The Flames had 41 shots but couldn't get any of them past Niklas Backstrom. Thirteen of those 41 shots came with the man advantage, as Calgary had 17:56 of power-play time -- including a five-minute major -- but could not convert, finishing 0-for-7.

"I'm embarrassed to talk about our power play tonight," coach Brent Sutter said. "You have 17 minutes on the power play and don't score a goal on it ... you don't deserve to win the game. That's one-third of the hockey game and there has to be some responsibility taken on the players' shoulders to make sure it gets better."

Blackhawks: The Central Division leaders, who hadn't won in regulation since Oct. 29, had exactly the type of outing they needed in Columbus. The Hawks came into the game with the worst power play in the NHL, but they scored two goals in three chances with the extra man and Corey Crawford made 27 saves in the three-goal victory. Chicago entered the night with just five power-play goals in 57 tries, but Andrew Brunette and Steve Montador scored back-to-back goals with the man-advantage in the second period to provide a 4-1 cushion. Toews sparked his team with two goals in the first and added an assist on Marian Hossa's goal 32 seconds into the third.

"We had a real good first period and then all of a sudden we get the power play going and we get some excitement in our team, as well," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was nice to see a couple nice plays, a couple nice finishes around the net."

Who's Hot: In the last six games for Chicago, Patrick Kane -- who scored a goal on Thursday -- has eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) and Toews has six points (3 goals, 3 assists).

Injury Report: Dave Bolland (lower body) blocked a shot in Tuesday's game at St. Louis and appeared to injure his right leg. He finished the game, but did not play Thursday in Columbus, though he might play against the Flames, according to Quenneville. … Since Tuesday's game, the Flames have placed two players on IR: defenseman Anton Babchuk (broken hand) and forward Brendan Morrison (recovering from knee surgery). Paul Byron and T.J. Brodie have been recalled from AHL Abbotsford to fill their spots. Calgary did receive some good news this week, as forward Mikael Backlund will play his first game of the season after being sidelined with a broken finger since early October.

Stat Pack: Chicago hadn't scored more than one power-play goal -- nor more than five goals -- in a game this season until the victory against the Blue Jackets.

Puck Drop: While Chicago might have cured some power-play issues in Columbus, the Flames are still trying to figure out why there is such a startling disparity between their power play at home and on the road. Away from the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames are second-best in the League, scoring on 12 of their 29 chances. In Calgary, they have only two goals in 34 opportunities with the extra man. Overall their power play is at 15.4 percent, which is 21st in the League.

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