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Hurricanes hope to get well at home vs. Blackhawks

by David Kalan
BLACKHAWKS (5-1-2) at HURRICANES (3-3-3)


Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the season for Chicago and Carolina. The Blackhawks won their lone matchup last season, 5-2, at the RBC Center on March 4.

Big Story:
The Blackhawks look to continue their quick start with a brief swing to Carolina, where the Hurricanes are in need of a win to stop the bleeding of their recent skid.

Team Scope:

Chicago may not quite be receiving the buzz Washington has in the Eastern Conference, but the Blackhawks have quietly put on an impressive start to the season. The Blackhawks sit two points up on Detroit in the Central Division after rallying to beat the Ducks in a shootout Tuesday and winning five of seven overall. In fact, Chicago hasn't lost in regulation since the opening night of the season.

The root of the Hawks' success is no secret, as Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp have both been offensive forces averaging a point per game. Goalie Corey Crawford has played his part, too, going 4-1-2 in his seven starts with a tidy 2.08 goals-against average. If Chicago keeps the momentum going in Carolina, there's a good chance to continue its run. After Friday, the Hawks come back home for two more games to wrap up October.

Hurricanes: Just nine games into the season Carolina is already facing a significant obstacle in the standings. With Southeast-leading Washington off to an historic start, the Hurricanes are facing considerable hindrances both in terms of points and games in hand if they want to climb back into the division race. Despite not winning in their last three games the Canes may be making some progress on that front. An impressive rally Tuesday night against Ottawa salvaged a point after Carolina trailed 2-0 with five minutes to go. Cam Ward has also started to look sharper. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy-winner hasn't lost in regulation in his last five starts.

Still, the Canes will need to win games to start making hay in the standings and those have been tough to come by for Carolina lately. Four of the next five games are in the friendly confines of the RBC Center, which should prove a boon to a team that has played just a third of its games at home all season.

Who's Hot:
Marian Hossa has been as hot as any Hawk lately, tallying 7 points in his last six games. … As for Carolina, reigning Calder Trophy-winner Jeff Skinner may be finding his form in the sophomore campaign. He has 4 points in his last two games.

Injury Report:
Anthony Stewart (lower-body injury) is questionable for Carolina, while Chicago is expected to have a healthy lineup.

Stat Pack: Chicago's potent offense -- the Hawks are averaging 3.25 goals per game -- may be overshadowing its defense and goaltending. The Blackhawks' plus-7 goal differential is the best in the Western Conference, and third best in the League after Washington and Pittsburgh.

Puck Drop:
There is no denying that Carolina needs a win, but unfortunately for the Canes, a home game against one of the top teams in the West is not the easiest recipe. Finally getting to spend some extended time at home could do wonders for the Canes, however, and patching together a few wins could easily change the complexion of the early season.

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