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Senators-Blackhawks Preview @NHL

The Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators have goaltenders who haven't seen the ice for a while.

Both could start Wednesday's game at the United Center.

On Monday, the Blackhawks (12-6-7) sent Corey Crawford back to the team's AHL affiliate, which could pave the way for Nikolai Khabibulin's return. Ottawa (10-10-5), meanwhile, will give Martin Gerber his first start in over a month.

Khabibulin suffered a lower-body injury Nov. 26 against San Jose and missed the next five games. In his place, Cristobal Huet went 2-2-1, including Sunday's 7-1 win over Phoenix.

Huet took an overtime loss in the Nov. 26 game and then suffered two regulation defeats, but rebounded to go 2-0-1 over his last three starts, with both victories coming at home.

Khabibulin is 7-1-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average, while Huet is 5-5-3 with a 2.80 GAA.

Neither goalie has performed well against Ottawa of late. Khabibulin has lost four of his last six starts versus the Senators with a 4.06 GAA, and Huet has lost five of his last six with a 4.95 GAA.

The Blackhawks had their best offensive performance of the season Sunday, scoring seven times in the first 28 minutes. They have 15 goals in the past three games.

"The offense has been pretty consistent," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We have some threats offensively. Everyone is contributing."

Ben Eager had a season-high two goals Sunday, and three other players continued streaks, including Jonathan Toews.

Following a slow start to this season, Toews has four goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. After scoring 24 goals in 2007-08, Toews failed to score in the first 12 games this season and had two over the first 19.

Patrick Sharp, Chicago's leader with 16 goals, has a four-game goal streak and Patrick Kane, who has a team-leading 32 points, has at least one point in four consecutive games.

For the first time in 12 games, the Senators will not start Alex Auld in net and will look to Gerber, who will make his first start since losing 2-1 to Carolina on Nov. 7. Gerber, 1-4-1 with a 3.17 GAA this season, is 2-0-1 with one tie and a 2.40 GAA in four lifetime meetings with the Blackhawks.

"It's a good challenge for Martin," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said on the team's official Web site. "We trust that Martin will go out and play a good game for us."

Before Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to Florida, Auld, who is among the league leaders with a 2.06 GAA, had given up two goals or fewer in six of his last seven games. Against the Panthers, he allowed three goals in the first 30 minutes.

For the first time this season, the Senators have scored three or more goals in three straight games. However, Ottawa remains near the bottom of the league with 2.48 goals per contest while the Blackhawks are one of the top teams at 3.52 per game.

Dany Heatley scored his team-leading 14th goal Monday to extend his point streak to four. Daniel Alfredsson also has a four-game point streak, and Jason Spezza has scored five times in a three-game goal streak.

Ottawa has lost four of its last five meetings with the Blackhawks, and the Senators have gone 1-3-1 with one tie in their last six in Chicago.

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