Blackhawks vs. Flames Preview 11/18/2011

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Coming off a convincing 5-1 victory against Vancouver, the Blackhawks look to extend their winning streak to 5 games tonight as they visit the Calgary Flames.  Perhaps the most noteworthy headline from this game is the return of forward Ben Smith to the Chicago lineup.  Being the unanimous choice amongst the Hawks brass, much speculation has occurred since Rostislav Olesz was waived on Tuesday as to where Ben Smith will fit in this lineup.

Smith became an instant favorite for Hawks fans in their first round match up against Vancouver for his gritty play and his ability to score key goals (see game 6 game winning goal).  If it wasn’t for a concussion this preseason, Smith would likely already be playing for the club.

With the struggles of Bryan Bickell as of late and the success of the fourth line, Smith figures to replace Bickell on the third line alongside Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik.  Frolik took a hard fall in the middle of the third against Vancouver and did not return to the game after that.  His status for tonight’s game is questionable.  If Frolik can’t go look for the third line to be Smith-Bolland-Bickell.

The Flames and the Blackhawks met one week ago with Chicago running over the Flames with a 4-1 victory.

The lack of scoring has plagued the Flames all season long and has led to speculation that the organization is preparing to completely overhaul the team and begin a rebuilding process.  Calgary has only two players who have reached double digit point totals so far, star Jarome Iginla not included.  Compare that to the Hawks who have six players with double digit points.

With back to back games this weekend, look for Ray Emery to get the start tonight as he owns a 3-1-1 record with a 1.19 GAA against Calgary in his career.

Players to Watch: Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa both have 8 points during this 4 game win streak.  Steve Montador (4 goals and 6 points during streak). Patrick Sharp (3 assists against Calgary on 11/11/11).

Injury Report: Brent Seabrook will miss his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury.  Michael Frolik remains questionable after crashing into the boards during the third period against Vancouver on Wednesday.  For the Flames, defenseman Anton Babchuk and forward Brendan Morrison are on injured reserve while forward David Moss is questionable with a lower-body injury after missing Tuesday’s matchup with Ottawa.

Prediction: With the struggles the Flames have had in both the offensive and defensive zone it will be difficult for them to generate many chances against a hot Hawks team that has shut down opponents offensive attacks during their 4 game win streak.  The one downside to this match up is that the Hawks are prone to falling flat against weaker teams after performing brilliantly against tough opponents the game before.  If the Hawks don’t bring the same level of intensity that they have had during this 4 game streak, this game could be a lot closer than some may think.  However, since the 2008-2009 season the Hawks have had much success against the Flames going 15-4-0 against them.

Blackhawks 5 – Flames 3

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