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Hot Flames visit surging Blackhawks

by David Kalan
FLAMES (33-23-9) at BLACKHAWKS (34-23-6)

TV -- SNET-West (HD),CSN-CH (HD)

Last 10
-- Calgary 6-2-2; Chicago 7-1-2.

Season series -- Calgary has taken two of three meetings with the Hawks this season, including the most recent meeting between the two teams, a 3-1 win for the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 7.

Big story -- As the West playoff race remains tight, two teams that have shot up the standings in recent weeks will face off in a game that could have enormous postseason implications.

Team Scope:

-- The term "hot" seems redundant when a team called the Flames is involved, but few teams can match the blistering pace Calgary has set in the second half. The Flames looked to be out of the playoffs at midseason, but after replacing GM Darryl Sutter with Jay Feaster, Calgary has done nothing but win and shot up the standings dramatically, culminating in a 6-0 win at St. Louis on Tuesday night.

The victory, which has catapulted the Flames up to fifth in the West standings, was the third shutout in five starts for goalie Miikka Kiprusoff -- a run that includes the first ever shutout in an outdoor game at the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic. Kiprusoff's recent stellar play proved pivotal for most of Tuesday, as the Flames nursed a 1-0 lead into the third period before blowing the game open. That breakout period came in large part thanks to Alex Tanguay, who had three points on the night, but several other Flames have contributed in Calgary of late. Olli Jokinen has 13 points in his last 11 games, Anton Babchuk has eight points in his last 10 and David Moss' power-play goal Tuesday gave him a goal in three straight outings.

Blackhawks -- One of the few teams as hot as the Flames is Chicago. After an inconsistent season that raised the possibility that the Hawks could miss out on a chance to defend their Cup, they've won five straight, lifting them from the outside of the top eight to a tie for sixth in the West. During the current winning streak Chicago has won three times on the road, including Monday night when the Hawks doubled up the Wild 4-2 at the Xcel Energy Center.

Captain and the reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews, named as the NHL's First Star of the Month for February, has been leading the charge of an offense that also has gotten production from other big guns like Patrick Sharp, who has nine points in the last six games, and Marian Hossa, who has five points in his last four.

Who's hot -- Toews has 11 points in his current six-game point streak. ... Tanguay's big night in St. Louis Tuesday gave him a five-game point streak during which he has 8 points.

Injury report -- Calgary defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion) are on injured reserve. … The Blackhawks announced Monday that defenseman Jordan Hendry will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Chicago could also be without Fernando Pisani, who is listed as questionable and has been fighting a concussion recently.

Stat pack -- Could Calgary finally be on the verge of breaking its Chicago hex? After losing eight straight to the Hawks in the regular season and dropping a playoff series against Chicago in 2009, few teams struggled against a single opponent like the Flames did before the current campaign. If Calgary can pull off a victory against Chicago Wednesday, however, the Flames will win the season series against the Hawks, something they haven't done in eight years.

Puck drop -- Chicago should have a new face in its lineup Wednesday -- defenseman Chris Campoli, acquired from Ottawa to bulk up the blue line in Hendry's absence Monday, should be making his Hawks debut after getting his work visa.

"The one thing we all liked about Chris is that he's not just a rental player," GM Stan Bowman said after acquiring the 26-year-old on Monday. "He's a young guy. We have his rights beyond just this season. He fits in to the near term this season as well as next."

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