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Sunday Best: Blackhawks vs. Flames Preview

Fresh off a win — that’s right, a WIN — the Blackhawks are back at the UC on Sunday night.

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Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

For a quick pregame speech, let’s go to Lou Brown.

Take it away, Lou:

Thanks Lou!

The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t had a winning streak since October but are coming off a win on Friday night when they host the Calgary Flames on Sunday night at the United Center.

Calgary’s had a few more winning streaks, although perhaps not quite as many as it envisioned at the start of the season. The Flames boast a 19-14-7 record, good for 45 points and fourth place in the Pacific Division — lagging behind the 111-point pace the Flames set last season when they won the division title.

Losing their top two leading scorers from last season in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk during the prior offseason explains much of that step backwards, while newer pieces like Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau have not quite made up for the difference. Veteran Flames forward Elias Lindholm paces the team with 35 points (12 G, 23 A) in 39 games, while Toffoli and Kadri trail behind him with 32 and 30 points, respectively.

On the blue line, Rasmus Andersson provides the strongest offensive punch while skating just under 25 minutes a night and Noah Hanifin remains one of the game’s analytics darlings. Behind that strong duo, though, is some questionable depth, including old friend Nikita Zadorov, who will surely skate halfway across the ice to throw a hit at some point, leaving a golden scoring chance opportunity for the Blackhawks in his wake. In net, Jacob Markstrom has some subpar numbers, most noticeably a save percentage of .897 that just will not cut it in the NHL anymore, but Markstrom did make 24 saves on 25 shots in Calgary’s win over the New York Islanders on Sunday night.

Despite the negatives mentioned above, Calgary’s been on a decent roll of late, going 6-2-1 after a quick five-game losing streak in mid-December. This game is the first of a five-game road trip through the Central Division for Calgary, which still remains very much alive in the playoff race in the Western Conference.

As for the Hawks, perhaps their best performance of the night came on Friday against a similarly subpar Arizona Coyotes team. Not having Patrick Kane in the lineup seemed to motivate the rest of the roster to be more responsible with the puck, resulting in one of Chicago’s best possession performances of the season. Kane’s status remains in question and will likely be disclosed after the team’s morning skate on Sunday. Whether No. 88 is in the lineup or not, though, it’ll take a better performance across the Chicago lineup to notch two points against Calgary.

Let’s go Hawks or whatever.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Flames

42.58% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 55.47% (3rd)

41.05% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 54.07% (6th)

2.16 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.05 (23rd)

3.66 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.90 (13th)

56.9% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50.8% (12th)

19.8% (23rd) — Power play — 18.6% (26th)

73.5% (24th) — Penalty kill — 81.8% (7th)

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV

(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)