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Nearly a month ago, the Chicago Blackhawks endured a losing streak that all but dashed their hopes of a return to the playoffs. A successful stretch, however, has them back in the thick of the race.
|Patrick Lalime is 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA in his last three starts. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)|
The Blackhawks hope to continue their postseason push and conclude their three-game homestand with a win on Sunday against the surging Edmonton Oilers.
Chicago (33-29-6) dropped five straight from Jan. 22-Feb. 6, and sat 10 points out of the final postseason spot at the end of that skid. Since then, the Blackhawks have gone 10-4-1 to move into 11th in the Western Conference - three points ahead of Edmonton (32-31-5) and only six from the eighth and final playoff berth.
The Blackhawks, though, didn't come away with the result they desired their last time out, as their three-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 loss to San Jose on Friday. Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each scored for Chicago, which managed just 19 shots after having at least 28 in the previous four contests.
"The puck was on the walls a lot," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "We didn't connect on enough tape-to-tape passes. Their forecheck was always in good position."
The loss also came after the organization honored Hall of Famers and team ambassadors Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who both played for Chicago's last Stanley Cup-winning team in 1961.
The Blackhawks hope to end that title drought as they seek their first postseason berth since 2001-02. They can start by earning a split of the 2007-08 series with the Oilers, who have won two of three meetings, including a 4-1 victory on Feb. 6 in Edmonton.
Chicago hasn't lost the series since going 0-3-1 in 2003-04.
|Mathieu Garon is 5-1-0 in his last six games and 5-2-0 lifetime versus the Blackhawks. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)|
The Blackhawks' lone win this season was a 3-2 home victory on Dec. 23, giving them three straight over the Oilers at the United Center since Dec. 10, 2006. It's the longest home winning streak in the all-time series since a four-game run from Dec. 17, 1989-Oct. 17, 1991 at Chicago Stadium.
Chicago had won a season high-tying five straight home contests before Friday's loss. Patrick Lalime made 20 saves, while starting for the seventh time in eight games in place of No. 1 goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (back spasms).
Lalime is 2-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average in his last three starts, and is 2-4-0 with a tie and a 2.56 GAA in eight games against Edmonton.
The Oilers, nine points out of a playoff spot, have won five of six since a three-game losing streak from Feb. 16-22. Rookie Andrew Cogliano scored 1:53 into overtime to give them a 2-1 victory at Columbus on Friday.
Edmonton allowed the tying goal with one second left in regulation before posting its sixth straight one-goal win.
"It seems that nothing is easy for us," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "To give that up was disappointing at the time, obviously. We don't need to be giving Columbus points either, but had some satisfaction that we came back and got the win in overtime."
Mathieu Garon made 30 saves to improve to 5-1-0 with a 2.90 GAA in his last six games. He is 5-2-0 with a 1.96 GAA in seven contests versus Chicago.
The Oilers, who play four of the next five on the road, have lost three of their last four contests as visitors. They last won in Chicago, 4-3, on April 7, 2006.