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Thrashers-Blackhawks Preview @NHL

After a solid start, the Chicago Blackhawks have stumbled in their last two games.

The Blackhawks look to avoid extending their losing streak to three games Saturday when they host the struggling Atlanta Thrashers for the first time in five years.

Chicago (5-5-0) was one of the Western Conference's worst teams last season, finishing in last place in the Central Division with 71 points. However, the team opened this season with five wins in its first eight games, backed by the strong play of rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Those first-round picks have continued to shine this week, but that hasn't been enough for the Blackhawks to win. They lost 7-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and fell 3-1 to the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

"I told the guys after the game that I was proud," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said after his club outshot Boston 27-18 on Thursday. "We completely out-chanced them, but it just didn't go our way."

Toews extended his scoring streak to eight games with a second-period goal - his fourth of the season and third in four games - but Chicago gave up two goals in the second period despite outshooting the Bruins 13-3.

Kane didn't record a point after totaling nine in the previous three games.

"We deserved a lot more," Toews said, "but if we keep doing the right things then good things should happen."

Nikolai Khabibulin saw his goals-against average rise from 2.32 to 2.88 after the last two games as his record dropped to 3-5-0. He has allowed three or more goals in four straight starts.

Khabibulin is 6-3-0 with two ties against the Thrashers (2-8-0), who have alternated wins and losses over their last four games after losing six straight to open the season. They fell 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday to drop to 1-5-0 on the road this season, including 1-2-0 on their current seven-game road trip.

Atlanta has played only two games in Chicago and lost both, including a 5-0 defeat on Nov. 7, 2002 in the most recent visit. The only two meetings since that one were in Atlanta, and the Blackhawks won the last matchup - 5-4 in a shootout on Dec. 11, 2005.

The Thrashers are looking to bounce back after being outshot 34-20 on Thursday, including 16-5 in the first period. Goaltender Johan Hedberg, who has taken over for the injured Kari Lehtonen, recorded 31 saves but did not receive much support. The Thrashers took just three shots in the final period.

"A team in our position, with the things that have been happening, doesn't get the breaks," said Hedberg, who fell to 2-4-0 this season. "We tried to do too much and things didn't go our way. Sometimes you just try too hard."

The Thrashers had been coming off a 5-4 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday for their second win in three games since coach Bob Harley was fired and general manager Don Waddell took over. They now play four games over the next eight days before returning home to face the Washington Capitals on Nov. 6.

Thursday was the third time the Thrashers have been shut out this season. Atlanta is among the worst in the league in goals scored (20) and allowed (43).

Ilya Kovalchuk has been one of the lone members of the team that is playing well. He has five goals - no other Thrasher has more than two - and a team-leading nine points despite being held without one Thursday.

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