Blues-Blackhawks Preview

For three weeks the Chicago Blackhawks couldn't lose. Following back-to-back defeats, they must find a way to win again.

The Blackhawks have been able to do so regularly at United Center, where they'll try for a season-high seventh straight victory Sunday night against a rival St. Louis Blues team that continues piling up points.

Chicago (32-15-4) averaged 3.9 goals during a franchise-record 12-game win streak that ended with Thursday's 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay and was followed by a 4-0 defeat at Florida one night later. The latter matched the most lopsided defeat of the season for the Western Conference leaders, who have yet to drop three straight in regulation.

"(The streak) is over," veteran forward Marian Hossa said. "We have to forget about it and get a new one. We have to be way better.

"Obviously we had a good stretch of games, (now) everybody is ready for us."

Coach Joel Quenneville and his players admitted they lacked energy in the finale of a three-game, four-day trip. One night after being held to a season-low 18 shots, the Blackhawks recorded 15 of their 27 in the first two periods and trailed the Panthers 3-0 after the opening 20 minutes.

"If you can win that many games in a row, especially against the teams we were playing against, you can take a lot of good things away from it," captain Jonathan Toews told the NHL's official website. "We didn't do the right things the last couple of games and you see what happens."

With two games left before the All-Star break, Chicago must rebuild some momentum leading into that down time.

"Let's get re-energized and refocused," Quenneville said. "(Sunday) will be a good test and a good matchup."

Sporting a 20-5-1 mark at United Center, Chicago has outscored its opponents 23-9 to win all six January home games.

One of its few home blemishes came against St. Louis (28-15-8), which overcame a 5-2 first-period deficit to win 6-5 in overtime Nov. 4. The Blues appeared in position to win their fourth straight Friday, but Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon tied the game with 53.7 seconds left en route to a 2-1 shootout loss.

"You play 60 minutes like that - well 59 - and you don't come out with a win," said Brian Elliott, who made 40 saves. "It's frustrating but it's a lesson that you have to put teams away."

Despite the disappointing finish, the Blues have earned at least one point in five straight road games and are 5-1-4 in their last 10 overall.

"We're getting points. That's all that matters," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Elliott is 5-1-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average as a starter since Jake Allen was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury Jan. 9. However, Elliott was pulled after yielding four goals on 11 shots in 17 minutes at Chicago this season.

Teammate Alexander Steen had two goals in that contest and has two in the last three games after going nine straight without one.

St. Louis, though, hasn't scored a power-play goal in five straight contests and is 2 for 25 in the last eight.

The six goals Corey Crawford allowed to the Blues at home matched a career worst, but he had 29 saves in a 4-2 win at St. Louis on Nov. 14. Crawford, who watched Friday after his nine-game win streak ended Thursday, is 8-1-0 with a 1.55 GAA this month.

Including the playoffs, NHL scoring leader Patrick Kane has six goals and six assists during an eight-game point streak against the Blues.


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