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Blackhawks try not to get burned by early goals vs. Flames

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Chicago is in desperate need of a good start.

Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After another disastrous start led to a loss on Saturday night, the Chicago Blackhawks will search for a different way out of their ongoing funk when they host the Calgary Flames on Sunday evening at the United Center.

It won't be easy against Calgary, though, which currently sits atop the Pacific Division standings with a 15-9-2 record (32 points). The Flames have won five of their last seven, including a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night. That was Calgary's most recent game, which means it'll have the added bonus of fresh legs that the Blackhawks will not. It's a youth movement at forward leading the way, with four players 25 or younger atop the Flames scoring leaders. Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau are tied for the team lead with 29 points apiece, with Sean Monahan (27) and Elias Lindholm (26) not far behind.

In net, Mike Smith has been awful (.885 save percentage, 3.13 goals-against average) but that hasn't mattered because David Rittich has been a revelation. Rittich has an 8-2-1 record in 11 starts, with a .924 save percentage and 2.21 GAA. Smith, however, will start between the pipes.

As for the Blackhawks ... what else is there to say? The same story keeps unfolding at every game: a terrible start, followed by glimpses of competent if not borderline dominant hockey, culminating in a furious rally that falls short in yet another loss. It's been ongoing for a few weeks now. And with tonight's opponent on a roll, Chicago will easily get torched (GET IT?) If they attempt to sleepwalk through the opening 20 minutes. The Blackhawks just need a win, any win, if only to put a halt to this excessive bleeding that's been ongoing for over a month now. And a Sunday night in front of a United Center crowd starving for something to cheer about is the perfect venue for a cathartic win.

*Lineups are based on Saturday’s games

Projected lines

Blackhawks

Perlini — Toews — Saad

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Hayden — Kampf — Kahun

Martinsen — Anisimov — Kruger

Keith — Jokiharju

Manning — Seabrook

Gustafsson — Forsling

Crawford

Ward

Flames

GaudreauMonahan — Lindholm

Tkachuk — Backlund — Bennett

Mangiapane — Ryan — Neal

Lomberg — Jankowski — Hathaway

Giordano — Brodie

Hanifin — Hamonic

Kylington — Andersson

Smith

Rittich

How to watch

Time: 6 p.m.

Location: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network