NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, January 18th (All times Eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (19-21-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (27-13-6), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - With Patrick Sharp on injured reserve and Patrick Kane in a scoring slump, the Blackhawks are getting production from some lesser-known talents in an effort to stay near the top of the Western Conference.
The Sabres are looking for anything to provide a similar spark.
Chicago tries to extend a five-game point streak this evening and push Buffalo's road skid to 10 straight contests.
Sharp has missed the Blackhawks' past four games with a fractured left wrist, while Kane, a Buffalo native, has found the back of the net just once in his last 13 games. Still, Chicago is tied with St. Louis for first place in the Central Division with 60 points and one back of Vancouver for the most in the Western Conference thanks to captain Jonathan Toews as well as the likes of Viktor Stalberg and rookie Andrew Shaw.
Toews had a goal and an assist in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Sharks, while Stalberg also scored as part of a two-point performance. He has five goals in his past four games, including a hat trick on Jan. 10, and was named the NHL's Second Star for the week on Monday.
Shaw has also been a surprise as the 20-year-old's goal versus San Jose gave him one in three straight games and four in seven career contests since being recalled from the minors.
Corey Crawford allowed three goals on 24 shots in the victory that improved the Blackhawks to 3-0-2 in their past five games. Both defeats were overtime setbacks to Detroit, including one on Saturday in which Toews scored with 52 seconds left in regulation to force the extra frame.
"We certainly took it to [the Sharks] right off the bat," said Stalberg after Sunday's win. "We sat back a little bit starting off the second period, but overall it was probably one of our most complete games this year."
The Blackhawks will welcome the road-challenged Sabres to Chicago this evening. Buffalo began the season 8-3-0 as the guest, but has dropped a franchise-record nine straight games as the visitor in regulation.
The latest defeat came on Monday, a 5-0 loss in Detroit in the second portion of a season-long seven-game road trip. Jimmy Howard stopped all 27 shots fired his away by the Sabres, while Ryan Miller gave up five goals on 14 shots prior to getting lifted in the second period.
Buffalo hasn't won on the road since Dec. 3 and has lost 11 of its past 14 overall to fall seven points back of a playoff spot. The rattled club saw Detroit score the game's first goal 5:20 in and then found itself down 3-0 at intermission after the Red Wings scored twice in the frame's final two minutes.
"That's how things can change," said Miller. "Details weren't there and that's what Detroit's better at than us right now. We have to strive to be at that level.
"It's not good hockey. It's not good from the top down. I need to be better. I just can't seem to find a night where I can get in a groove. I don't know what the hell it is."
Jhonas Enroth stopped all 12 shots faced in relief and it is unknown who will get the start tonight.
The Blackhawks have won three of their past four versus the Sabres, taking both meetings last year by a 4-3 margin.
01/18 10:45:43 ET