Preview: Flames vs. Blackhawks
BLACKHAWKS (29-16-7) at FLAMES (23-22-6)
TV: TSN, CSN-Chicago
LAST 10: Chicago 5-3-2; Calgary 5-4-1
Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting this season between the two. Home teams have won each of the first three games, all by comfortable margins. In the first meeting at Scotiabank Saddledome back on Nov. 18, Calgary broke out of an offensive funk, winning 5-2 behind two goals and an assist from Curtis Glencross.
Big Story: How does Chicago respond to its second humiliating loss in two visits to Edmonton, and fourth straight defeat overall? The Hawks won't have long to nurse their wounds -- they visit Calgary less than 24 hours after Thursday's 8-4 loss. Calgary can't find the net heading into its final of a three-game homestand. Shut out by San Jose on Jan. 24, Calgary slipped to 11th in the standings - five points out of playoff position - with a 3-1 loss to Detroit on Tuesday.
Blackhawks: Activating Patrick Sharp and captain Jonathan Toews off of injured reserve after the All-Star break was supposed to be the boost the flagging Blackhawks were searching for. Instead, Chicago started its longest road trip of the season with its third and fourth losses in a row, the latter of the embarrassing variety. Edmonton roared back from a 2-0 deficit to win 8-4, thanks in large part to an eight-point night from Sam Gagner. The problem does not appear to be on offense, but instead with goalie Corey Crawford, who conceded five goals on 28 shots before getting pulled early in the third.
Crawford is 0-3-1 over his past four outings and has surrendered 14 goals on 103 shots, a save percentage of .864. He has been hooked early in two of those four games. He'll need to be better if the Chicago hope to keep pace in the competitive Central Division over the final seven games of the current road trip.
Flames: Tuesday's loss to the Red Wings was the second consecutive game in which Calgary felt they left a critical pair of points on the ice, and the seventh of 12 January outings in which they scored one goal or less. The Flames outshot the Wings 29-25 but managed to find the net just once, on Michael Cammalleri's power-play goal in the second. From there, defensive lapses and bad bounces doomed them. Jiri Hudler jumped on a wall-deflected puck for the go-ahead goal, and a stunned Flames defense conceded again to Drew Miller four minutes later.
"I guess it's been a little bit of the same for us as of late," Cammalleri said. "(It's) a habit we're going to have to break, playing a solid game for the most part and not being able to finish the deal. A couple breakdowns late are really costing us."
Who's Hot: Sharp and Toews are actually responsible for a good percentage of Chicago's offense since returning. While leading scorer Marian Hossa has not tallied, Sharp scored twice Thursday and Toews has two assists in two games.
Injury Report: Curtis Glencross, Calgary's third-leading scorer with 33 points, has a knee injury and is not expected back until March. Derek Smith (ankle), David Moss (foot) and goalie Henrik Karlsson (knee) are all on injured reserve. … For Chicago, Daniel Carcillo (left knee surgery) will miss the rest of the season.
Stat Pack: While it's likely Ray Emery will get the start for Chicago, he hasn't been much better of late than Crawford. In his two relief appearances, he has a .789 save percentage on 19 shots faced. … Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff doesn't have a great career mark against Chicago - 11-13-1 in 30 starts - but the Flames should still hold an edge, considering that the winning team in each of the previous three matchups has scored four or more goals.
Puck Drop: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville refused to pull any punches after the Edmonton game -- but he expects his team to be a lot better on Friday night.
"We're going to Calgary, and we should be disappointed," Quenneville said. "We should be embarrassed. Let's make sure we're thinking about what happened tonight."