March 22, 2015

Eddie Lack exposed a struggling Blackhawks offense with a solid performance in net that helped the Carolina Hurricanes pick up a surprising victory in Chicago right after Christmas.

The Blackhawks didn't lose for three weeks following that defeat, but they're again having a tough time finding the back of the net as they head into Raleigh to face Lack and the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

Chicago (33-15-4) elevated Andrew Shaw to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa following a 2-1 loss to Carolina (22-20-8) on Dec. 27, when Brent Seabrook's goal with three seconds left was all that prevented Lack from earning a shutout.

The Blackhawks averaged nearly four goals during a franchise-record 12-game winning streak after that loss and scored in the opening minute against Tampa Bay on Thursday. But that Artem Anisimov goal was all they would get for the next 155 minutes and 43 seconds over a 2-1 loss to the Lightning, a 4-0 drubbing the next night at Florida and the start of Sunday's home matchup with St. Louis.

Rookie Artemi Panarin got Chicago on the board off an assist from NHL leading scorer Patrick Kane with 4:34 left in the second period, and Shaw scored on the power play in the third as the Blackhawks ended their skid with a 2-0 win over the Blues.

Coach Joel Quenneville gave most of the credit to Corey Crawford, who made 25 saves for his league-best seventh shutout.

''He's starting to develop some consistency with the defense in front of him,'' Quenneville said of Crawford. ''I thought we lost the momentum after the Tampa Bay game and getting it back on track was important for us.''

Crawford, who had the night off against the Panthers, has a 1.40 goals-against average while winning nine of his last 10 starts, saving nearly 96 percent of the shots he's faced in that span. His .932 save percentage in a league high-tying 41 starts ranks among the NHL leaders.

Crawford made 25 saves in the first meeting with Carolina, and he's hoping the Blackhawks can provide him with more offensive support this time around.

Lack, who made 35 saves against Chicago, has been thrust into the No. 1 role since Cam Ward went on injured reserve last week with a concussion. He's taken his share of lumps while losing 5-0 to Pittsburgh on Jan. 17 and 4-1 to the New York Rangers on Friday, but had a 32-save shutout to beat Toronto on Thursday and stopped 33 shots in Sunday's 5-2 win over Calgary.

''The more I play, the more comfortable I feel,'' Lack said. ''Sometimes, it's tough to get in a bit of a rhythm, but I feel pretty comfortable now.''

The Hurricanes are among the wild-card contenders in a tight Eastern Conference race, thanks in large part to a 6-2-1 stretch since Jan. 8. Kris Versteeg has had plenty do with it, accounting for five goals and three assists in that span.

Versteeg, acquired along with Joakim Nordstrom from the Blackhawks in an offseason trade, scored twice against the Flames with Nordstrom also adding a goal in his second straight game.

Versteeg's 20 assists are tied with Eric Staal for the Hurricanes' most, and his 30 points are three behind defenseman Justin Faulk for the team lead.

''When you get to new teams, sometimes people think it's going to (click) right away,'' said Versteeg, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2009-10 and last season. ''It's new things every day. Over the last month and a half, I've started to adjust, and I feel a little more comfortable each day.''

This marks the last game before the All-Star break for both teams.

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