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Monday, October 26

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Blackhawks Mon Apr 27 2009

Hawks look to clinch in hostile Calgary

Following Saturday night's dominating 5-1 win in Chicago, the Blackhawks have a chance to close out their opening round series (currently leading 3-2) over the Flames tonight in Game 6 at 8:30 p.m.

To do so, Chicago will need to find a way to win in the Saddledome against an experienced playoff team with its back to the wall. The Hawks won both regular season battles north of the border, but the playoff pressure and added atmosphere can rattle a team as young as the Hawks, as seen in Game 3 and 4, when they couldn't recover from the Flames counterpunch after taking early leads.

If the team can come out as impressively as they did in Game 5, where they outshot the Flames 15-3 in the first period while jumping out to a 3-goal lead, there's a good chance the Hawks will advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 1996. Saturday was close to as perfect a game as Chicago has had this season, with a lockdown defense and potent powerplay setting the tone for the offense to roll, and goalie Nicolai Khabibulin back to his old self in the few times tested.

One factor in the Hawks favor tonight is the injuries facing the Flames. Word out of the morning skate is stud defenseman Dion Phaneuf is out for Calgary tonight, joining other top D-man Robyn Regher, who has yet to play this series. Defenseman Cory Sarich and forwards Rene Bourque, Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy are also banged up, though expected to play. Meanwhile, other than Matt Walker's broken finger, the Hawks are relatively healthy and raring to go, other than the assorted bumps and bruises that come with playoff hockey.

Win, and the Hawks advance to face either Vancouver or San Jose if the Sharks can pull off a comeback in their series against Anaheim. Lose, and it's winner take all Wednesday night at the United Center.

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