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After an encouraging road trip, the Chicago Blackhawks expect to return home with some additional help.
The Blackhawks plan on activating Martin Havlat from injured reserve in time for their first game at the United Center in 2 1/2 weeks, facing the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning.
Chicago (12-9-2) is coming off a 2-0 loss to Vancouver on Sunday, but still came away with points in four of six games during its extended road trip, going 2-2-2. The Blackhawks were just 4-17-2 over the last four seasons during the annual November trip that's caused by the circus taking over the United Center.
"I'm really proud of our guys, the fact we're going to battle and teams that want to battle with us, we'll be right there with them," Chicago coach Dennis Savard said. "We were challenged early and we responded."
The Blackhawks now return to the United Center, where they haven't played since a 3-2 win over Detroit on Nov. 11. Chicago outscored opponents 12-6 in winning its last three home games, and has not won four straight at the United Center in a single season since Nov. 10-Dec. 1, 2006.
The Blackhawks get back to their home ice with Havlat, who had been out since injuring his shoulder in their season-opening 1-0 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 4.
Havlat led Chicago with 25 goals and 32 assists last season despite being limited to 56 games because of injuries to his right ankle, groin and shoulder. He has five goals and eight assists in his last 10 games against Tampa Bay.
This is expected to be Nikolai Khabibulin's first game versus the Lightning (10-11-2) since he led them to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, going 16-7-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and five shutouts in the playoffs. The only game between these teams since he left Tampa Bay via free agency came on Dec. 2, 2005 - a 3-2 shootout loss - and Khabibulin was given the night off.
Khabibulin went 2-0-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average during Chicago's road trip. He is 5-1-2 with a 2.97 GAA since Oct. 31.
Tampa Bay, which has not visited Chicago since snapping an eight-game winless streak in the series with a 5-3 win on March 3, 2004, lost 3-2 to New Jersey on Saturday to drop its fourth straight game.
Each loss during the skid has been by one goal for the streaky Lightning. This slide follows a five-game winning streak, which came directly after they had lost six in a row.
"I have full confidence in the team," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "We need to find a way to finally get some points there. We've just got to continue going about our business and certainly not get down about anything."
Vincent Lecavalier, who leads the NHL with 38 points, had a goal and an assist on Saturday. Lecavalier has nine goals and 16 assists in 12 games this month, and has two goals and four assists during a four-game point streak against the Blackhawks.
Johan Holmqvist has been in net for every game during Tampa's losing streak, posting a dismal .865 save percentage while allowing 13 goals. In his only career game against Chicago on Dec. 11, 2002, Holmqvist made 16 saves in a 4-3 loss for the New York Rangers.