After a rout of St. Louis last night, the Flames move on to Chicago tonight to take on the Blackhawks in what has the full potential to be a bloodbath.
As many predicted, the 'Hawks couldn't be kept out of playoff contention for long, and have soared into the West's top eight with five consecutive wins and a record of 7-1-2 in their past ten games. Despite some recent success against Chicago this season after two seasons of futility, the United Center remains an unfriendly place for the Calgarians, who lost their last contest there by a score of 4-2 back in December, prior to the great turn-around we've witnessed in the past two months.
One factor in the 'Hawks recent surge has been captain Jonathan Toews. The 22-year old was named the first star of the month for February and has nine points in his last five games. Toews is on pace for a career-high in goals (30) and points (79), and has been pretty good against the Flames in his young career, with three goals and nine points in 14 games. Toews is ranked fourth amongst regular 'Hawks forwards in terms of quality of competition and he, along with shutdown specialist Dave Bolland, will likely make life very difficult for the Flames' top six that had a comparatively easy go of things last night in St. Louis.
Alex Tanguay is the only player on the Flames' top two lines that has averaged more than a point per game for his career against the Blackhawks, with 10 goals and 34 points in 32 games against the Chicago natives. He'll be looking to replicate his magic touch from last night's game when he finished with a goal and two assists.
Miikka Kiprusoff has struggled somewhat against the Blackhawks, allowing 74 goals in 26 games with an SV% of .902, although his numbers on the road this season already put him at something of a disadvantage, and the 'Hawks will no doubt do their best to capitalize on that, especially on the powerplay, where they rank first overall--operating at 27% efficiency at home.
Lines and Pairings:
No sign of either of the Flames' new acquisitions tonight as Brent Sutter continues to ice the same lineup that has given him positive results in the past while, and as such, Kiprusoff will again get the start in net tonight. The netminder is red hot with three shutouts in his past five games, but as mentioned above, the 'Hawks have always provided a challenge for him. Corey Crawford will counter for the 'Hawks.
Enjoy the game everyone and hope that something, anything will serve to ignite Rene Bourque against his old team in the comments. Go Flames.