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Red-hot Hawks visit surging Leafs

by John Kreiser
BLAKCHAWKS (36-23-6) at MAPLE LEAFS (29-27-9)

TV -- CBC (HD); WGN (HD)

Last 10 -- Chicago 8-1-1; Toronto 6-1-3

Season series -- The Original Six rivals are meeting for the only time this season -- and for the first time anywhere since the Hawks won 3-2 in Chicago on Nov. 13, 2009.

Big story -- The Leafs are playing well, but the Hawks are on fire. Chicago has won seven in a row, including a 5-2 home win against Carolina on Friday, to jump into fourth place in the West. Toronto is on a 6-0-3 win that have moved the Leafs within four points of the last playoff spot in the West and is coming off a 3-2 win at Philadelphia on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- The Hawks cleared up one problem they'd had earlier in the week -- sluggish play in the third period -- by scoring three times in first 7:22 of the final period against Carolina to turn a 2-1 game into a romp.

"It was a one-goal game, it's a hockey game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got comfortable and relaxed and probably took it off the gas in the last two games. We stayed with it pretty well (Friday) and did what we had to do. It was a good game."

Maple Leafs -- The arrival of rookie James Reimer has been a godsend for the Leafs. He's 6-0-2 in his last eight games and has a 2.13 goals-against average during that stretch.

"He's just keeping us in every game and we are trying to reward him the best we can," said forward Darryl Boyce, who had the game-winner in Philadelphia.

Who's hot -- Hawks captain Jonathan Toews scored again on Friday and has 7 goals and 12 points during the winning streak. … Toronto forward Phil Kessel has scored 4 goals and added 5 assists in his last five games.

Injury report -- Chicago defenseman Jordan Hendry is gone for the season with knee surgery. … Toronto forward Colton Orr is still sidelined with a head injury.

Stat pack -- The Blackhawks have been outscored 74-65 in the third period this season. … Chicago has won seven of 10 games against the East this season.

Puck drop -- The Hawks lost center John Madden, a valuable checker and locker room presence, when they had to pare salary during the summer. They may have found a replacement in free-agent signee Ryan Johnson, who has excelled in the faceoff circle and even scored the game-winner on Friday.

"Comparable," Quenneville said when asked if Johnson is this season's Madden. "Killing penalties, (winning) faceoffs and that line energy. He's been doing a good job. He's helps face-offs. He helps penalty-killing. But he's a good pro and we like the leadership qualities that he brings as well."

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