Preview: Flames vs. Blackhawks
FLAMES (14-14-4) at BLACKHAWKS (20-8-4)
TV: SNET-CGY (HD), WGN
Last 10: Calgary 5-2-3; Chicago 8-1-1.
Season series: Sunday's matchup is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference foes. Each club has posted a three-goal victory at home to split the first two games. On Nov. 11 in Chicago, Patrick Sharp recorded three assists to help the Blackhawks claim a 4-1 victory. One week later in Calgary, the Flames handled the Hawks 5-2 behind two goals and an assist from Curtis Glencross.
Big Story: The Blackhawks, who have points in seven straight, are aiming for their first five-game winning streak of the season. Ray Emery has started and won each of the Hawks' last four games and could be taking Corey Crawford’s spot as the team’s No. 1 goaltender.
The Flames are ending a four-game, five-day road trip -- which has not produced a win and has yielded just two points in stops at Nashville, Tampa Bay and Florida. After Sunday's clash in the Windy City, Calgary returns home for two games before heading back on the road for seven straight.
Flames: The Flames have experienced a one-goal loss of each variety on their current trip. They opened the four-game stretch with a 2-1 regulation loss to the Predators, then fell 5-4 in overtime to the Lightning, and on Friday dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Panthers. Miikka Kiprusoff was given a night off against the Cats, as 2006 first-round pick Leland Irving made his NHL debut. Irving stopped 39 of 41 shots in a very solid effort, but the Flames couldn't hang on to a 2-1 lead, surrendering the tying goal with 4:35 left in regulation before falling in the shootout. Calgary was playing the second of back-to-back nights and its third game in four days, which might have been responsible for the lethargic finish.
"In the last eight minutes in the game, I thought we looked a little tired," coach Brent Sutter said.
Despite the result, the rookie goaltender was thrilled to be on NHL ice after playing 166 games in the AHL during the past three seasons.
"It was everything I thought it would be and more," Irving said. "Exciting atmosphere. To step on the ice with that caliber of players, a lot of talent out there, I enjoyed the challenge."
Blackhawks: Since replacing Crawford in a shootout loss to Phoenix on Dec. 5, Emery has allowed merely eight goals over four straight victories to improve his record to 8-1-2. The latest of those wins came on Friday against his former team, when the Blackhawks handed the Ducks a 4-1 defeat.
"It's fun playing for sure," said Emery, who made 24 saves and was 1:47 away from registering a shutout. "I don't take anything for granted and you never know how things are going to go. If you expect something and you're not willing to work for it, you don't get it. I'm taking it one game at a time and every time I get in there I just want to do my best."
Emery has been stellar at the United Center, where he is 5-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average, helping the Hawks build a very impressive home record of 10-2-3.
Who's Hot: Flames center Olli Jokinen has points in five of his last six after he tallied a goal and an assist for the second consecutive game on Friday. … Marian Hossa and Sharp each had a two-point night against the Ducks, assisting on each other's goals. Hossa has scored in four of his last six, while Sharp has seven goals and five assists during a career-high eight-game point-streak.
Injury Report: Calgary Backup goalie Henrik Karlsson (sprained MCL), forward David Moss (foot) and defensemen Anton Babchuk (hand) and Mark Giordano (hamstring) are on IR. … For Chicago, Daniel Carcillo's upper-body injury is "not serious" according to coach Joel Quenneville, but the forward missed Friday’s game and is questionable for Sunday.
Stat Pack: If Emery plays, he'll have history on his side. The 29-year-old netminder has won his last three meetings with the Flames and has a career 1.19 GAA against them.
Puck Drop: Calgary hasn't won in its last 10 trips to Chicago, including the playoffs. The Flames have been outscored 46-21 while going 0-9-1 in their last 10 games at the United Center.