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Blackhawks-Senators Preview

Saturday, 12.22.2007 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Blackhawks-Senators Preview
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Ottawa Senators

The Chicago Blackhawks already have made huge strides this season. A road victory over another elite team would be one, too.

The Blackhawks look to win consecutive games for the first time this month when they face the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators for the only time this season on Saturday night.

Hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Chicago (16-15-2) appears to have its best team since finishing with 96 points in 2001-02. The Blackhawks were one of the league's biggest surprises with a 14-9-2 record through November, but they have cooled off with a 2-6-0 record this month.

Robert Lang and Patrick Sharp each scored twice, and Chicago took advantage of struggling Nashville for a 5-2 victory Wednesday.

Dustin Byfuglien also had a goal for the Blackhawks, who scored on three of their first four shots for a 3-0 lead after one period.

"When you get off to a start like that, it's easier," Lang said. "It puts them on their heels. It's nice to have a game when you're in charge, in control the whole time."

Sharp's first goal was his league-leading sixth short-handed. The Blackhawks lead the NHL with 11 short-handed scores, and no other team had more than six entering Friday's play.

Martin Havlat, who spent his first five seasons with the Senators, added three assists in the win, giving him five goals and six assists in 11 games after missing the first two months of the season with a right shoulder injury.

This will be Havlat's first game in Ottawa against his former team. He had one assist in his only career game against the Senators, a 4-3 shootout win in Chicago on March 4.

The Blackhawks, 0-3-1 in their last four away from home, have road wins this season over league-best Detroit (twice), Calgary, Toronto, Dallas and St. Louis.

Byfuglien, a natural defenseman, has provided so much offense - eight goals and 14 points in 21 games - that coach Denis Savard may play him at forward again Saturday. Byfuglien took several shifts as a forward on Wednesday.

"I like (Byfuglien) as a forward, that's just me," Savard told the team's official Web site. "I am undecided, but at the same time I am decided in that he's a forward in my book."

Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin is 1-5-1 with a 4.18 goals-against average in his last eight starts against the Senators - all coming with Tampa Bay.

Ottawa (22-8-3) looks to rebound after its six-game win streak was snapped Thursday with a 3-2 loss at Atlanta.

Jason Spezza scored one goal and set up another by captain Daniel Alfredsson, as the Senators suffered their first regulation loss since Dec. 1.

Although his personal three-game unbeaten streak was snapped, Martin Gerber turned in another stellar performance with a season-high 42 saves.

Gerber is 3-1-0 with a 1.85 GAA in his last five appearances.

"It wasn't a great effort for us," center Chris Kelly said. "I think the score might have been a lot worse if not for Gerber. He kept us in the game."

Alfredsson has four goals and 11 assists during a 10-game point streak. He has six goals and six assists in his last eight games against the Blackhawks.

Dany Heatley has six goals and four assists during a six-game point streak.

The Blackhawks have won three of their last four games against the Senators.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Dec 22 '07CHI 4 at OTT 3 - OTJ. Toews
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