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Blackhawks Tue Mar 17 2009

Avoiding the record books and righting the ship

After losing 4 of their last 5 games, the Blackhawks find themselves desperately in need of a win as they begin a 2-game, 2-night road trip tonight in New Jersey. If the sight of the Vancouver Canucks inching to within 2 points of their 4th seed isn't enough motivation, the Hawks can look across the ice to their opponent in the net and see the history in the making, as Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur needs a single victory to become the NHL's all-time winningest goalie.

Facing the Atlantic-leading Devils in Jersey is a tough enough task, but Brodeur's return from a 4-month long break after elbow surgery has made an already good team great, with the goalie going 7-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average to reach the doorstep of the record he currently shares with Patrick Roy. While Chicago needs to get back into the win column to hold onto home-ice advantage (and for that matter, the playoffs), there figures to be an extra buzz in the Prudential Center tonight thanks to Broduer's quest, exactly the type of distraction the league's youngest team doesn't need as they endure one of their worst stretches of the season.

After last week's supposed nadir against the Colorado Avalanche, the Hawks reached a new low in losing 4-2 to the league-worst New York Islanders. Chicago couldn't solve goaltender Peter Mannino, who was making his first NHL start and committed pure robbery with 40 saves, including a handful of partial breakaways. The Blackhawks gave up 3 power-play goals to the 20th ranked Isles, showcasing a lack of defensive focus that's starting to become a hallmark of March.

A welcome sight was the return of goaltender Nicolai Khabibulin, who, though he looked rusty at times, was left out to dry by bad penalties and defensive breakdowns in taking the loss. Still, Chicago was at its strongest when Habby and Cristobal Huet were splitting duties between the pipes, and re-establishing that rotation should help settle things down. Receiving even more good news, newly acquired forward Samuel Pahlsson is expected to play in the tail end of the back to back tomorrow in Columbus. The Hawks are anxious to get him on the ice and begin developing some chemistry with his teammates, and Pahlsson will need the extra conditioning after his bout with mono. Patrick Sharp has also started skating and is expected to be back soon, rounding the Hawks into a healthy roster just as the postseason race heats up.

However, without turning things around soon, the free-falling Hawks could find themselves in a fight to reach the playoffs, as just 9 points seperates them from the 8th seeded Dallas Stars.

 
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