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Blackhawks vs. Flames game preview: Circus Trip begins in Calgary

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The annual Circus Trip begins Thursday night with a matchup in Calgary. Can the 'Hawks get a win over the surprising Flames?

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks start their annual Circus Trip against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at the Saddledome. It's the second meeting of the season between the two teams.

The 'Hawks lost their first game of the 2014-15 season to Calgary back on Oct. 15 in spite outshooting the opponents, 50-18. Jonas Hiller was absolutely bonkers on that night for the Flames, saving 49 of 50 shot attempts while leading the team to a 2-1 victory in overtime.

Here's to guessing the Blackhawks remember how that went down and are hoping to return the favor as visitors Thursday. The offense finally broke out in the third period of a 6-2 win over Dallas on Sunday, too, so there's reason to believe we won't see another outrageous performance from Hiller.

The game begins a busy stretch for the team, which will play three games in three cities over the next four days. After facing Calgary on Thursday, the team heads to Edmonton on Saturday before completing a back-to-back on Sunday in Vancouver. The team then returns to the U.S. for three more road games before finally heading home.

Opponent Breakdown: Calgary Flames

The Flames have been one of the early surprises in the NHL this season, currently sitting second in the Pacific Division with a 12-6-2 record.

Calgary has been powered by a potent offense and the strong goaltending of Hiller so far this season. Despite lacking the star power of most teams, the Flames are fifth in the NHL in goals per game (3.1) and ninth in power play percentage (20.3 percent). Seven different players already have 10-plus points, led by Mark Giordano with 21 (6G, 15A).

With all that said, the Flames are also a vulnerable team that's likely going to regress in the coming weeks. Calgary is currently 27th and 28th, respectively, in overall CF% and Fenwick, and only Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have higher PDOs. Once the shooting percentages on both sides start to normalize, Calgary probably won't be second in the division anymore.

Still, the Flames are showing they're better than many expected, with a solid veteran goaltender and intriguing young pieces like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Even if they're not quite as good as the record indicates, the Flames are proving to be a competitive factor in the West.

Injuries

Still no Patrick Sharp, and obviously Trevor van Riemsdyk is out for a long while.

The Flames are also battling a number of injuries, with Matt Stajan, Mason Raymond and Mikael Backlund all out. David Jones and Kris Russell are also listed as day to day, so they may be gametime decisions for Thursday night against the 'Hawks.

Lineups

Blackhawks vs. Flames lineups
Saad-Toews-Hossa
Versteeg-Richards-Kane
Bickell-Smith-Morin
Carcillo-Kruger-Nordstrom
F Glencross-Monahan-Bouma
Gaudreau-Granlund-Hudler
Baertschi-Jooris-Byron
Bollig-Ferland-Setoguchi
Keith-Seabrook
Oduya-Hjalmarsson
Rundblad-Rozsival
D Giordano-Brodie
Smid-Wideman
Diaz-Engelland
Corey Crawford G Jonas Hiller
Also see: Matchsticks and Gasoline, SBN's Flames blog

Game Information

When: 8 p.m. CT

Where: Scotiabank Saddledome

TV: CSN

Radio: WGN-720

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(Statistics via NHL.com and Hockey Reference)