Hawks face Flames, look to build off convincing win
BLACKHAWKS (10-9-2) at FLAMES (7-10-0)
TV -- TSN (HD), CSN-CH (HD)
From the morning skate:
The Flames will face the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks group for the first of four meetings this season.
With the new additions of right winger Tom Kostopoulos
and defenceman Anton Babchuk
in the line up tonight, the Flames will look for a new spark to get their team back into the win column.
"I think with change it brings a little bit of energy," said Rene Bourque
. "Its a different look to our locker room and a different feeling. They got thrown into the fire here pretty quick we have a lot of games and obviously we've been struggling so hopefully they can come in here and make a difference."
The Flames will be withouth Olli Jokinen
as he will serve the first of his three game suspension tonight. Losing a key player like Jokinen will be tough on the line up. They will look to others to step up and fill the void.
"I've been playing with Olli for most of the year," Bourque said. "I don't know what kind of lines we'll have tonight. It definitely doesn't help. He's been a big part of our team this year and he's our number one centre. To have him out, someone is going to have to fill his role and whoever it is, hopefully they can pick up the slack."
Coach Brent Sutter commented to media after the pre-game practice that although it is a big loss for the team to lose Jokinen, they will make do with what they have and shuffle things up. They will look to David Moss
and Mikael Backlund
to step up in key situations.
"We're going to put Moss at centre ice and it's a good thing we've tried him there before," said Sutter. "You work with it and you shuffle it up a little bit. A young kid like Backlund, at the end of the day has been a good centre ice man so he'll get thrown into more key situations which is really good for any young player like him."
Game Day Media Notes HERE
Last 10 --
Chicago 4-5-1; Calgary 3-7-0
Season series --
This is the first meeting of the season for Chicago and Calgary. The Blackhawks swept last year's series, 4-0, taking the last game 4-1 on April 4 at the United Center.
Big story --
After dominating Edmonton on Wednesday night, the Hawks will look build momentum off a successful start to their annual circus trip with Friday's showdown in Calgary.
If captain Jonathan Toews wanted to prove his recent four-game point drought was of no concern, he provided convincing evidence Wednesday night. Toews snapped out of his funk with a natural hat trick, as the Blackhawks opened their trip with a 5-0 win over the Oilers. For Chicago, which had lost five of its previous six games before winning its last two, Wednesday was a much-needed boost for a team that has struggled to maintain the hot play that carried it to a title this June.
The Hawks' offensive outburst may have obscured an equally as impressive display on defense. While goaltender Marty Turco notched the 41st shutout of his career, a lockdown defense held down what is a dangerous, albeit young Oilers squad, surrendering a mere 18 shots. After picking up his eight win of the season, however, Turco may get the night off Friday. With Chicago facing off in Vancouver less than 25 hours after the puck drops in Calgary, it seems likely backup Corey Crawford, who was in net for Chicago's 3-2 overtime win over Anaheim Sunday, will get the call for one of the two games.
Calgary's recent history with Chicago is not a pretty one. The Flames were ousted from the 2009 postseason by the Blackhawks in six games, and proceeded to blow a five-goal first-period lead in their first regular season meeting early in the 2009-10 season. Calgary, which missed the postseason last this spring for the first time in six seasons, doesn't appear to have recovered from its run-in with Chicago 18 months ago. Calgary currently sits 14th in the Western Conference, and with losses in seven of the Flames' last eight games a turnaround doesn't appear on the horizon.
That turnaround became all the more difficult Thursday when the League handed down a three-game suspension to Olli Jokinen
for a cross check to the head of Phoenix's Wojtek Wolski Wednesday night. Jokinen, who is forfeiting $48,387.09 in salary, won't be eligible to return until Nov. 24, putting a strain on an offense which, aside from Rene Bourque
's 6 points in the last five games, has had few bright spots. With goalie Miikka Kiprusoff
also struggling -- Kipper has given up 10 goals in his last three starts, all losses -- Calgary is badly in need of a breakout performance to get back on track.
Who's hot --
Bryan Bickell has lent the Hawks some unheralded secondary scoring with 3 points in the last four games. … Calgary has gotten strong production from the blue line of late, as defenseman Mark Giordano
has 7 points in the last nine games.
Injury report --
Calgary has been running a veritable infirmary in Alberta, with Ales Kotalik
(knee), Raitis Ivanans
(concussion) and Adam Pardy
(shoulder) all on injured reserve. The lack of depth could prove pivotal against the Hawks, who should have a full lineup Friday.
Stat pack --
The Hawks' last two wins and the rough stretch that preceded them should leave no doubt as to who makes the offense go in Chicago. Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa all endured long scoring droughts recently, but in the last two games the quartet has combined for 13 points.
Puck drop --
If Chicago can manage to string together several wins on the current road swing, it may finally set the Hawks off on the run most around the League seem to be waiting for. For Calgary the situation appears much more dire, but with an infusion of new blood the Flames may be able to change the atmosphere and the team's momentum. Anton Babchuk
and Tom Kostopoulos
, who were acquired from Carolina on Wednesday for Ian White and Brett Sutter
, are likely to make their first appearance for Calgary on Friday night.