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Chicago
Blackhawks
46-24-12
Atlanta
Thrashers
35-41-6

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Blackhawks-Thrashers Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 3:48 AM

Associated Press

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Blackhawks-Thrashers Preview
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Atlanta Thrashers

While the Chicago Blackhawks boast one of the league's better defenses, they weren't sharp at all in their last contest.

The Blackhawks look to regroup from a poor performance as they visit the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night for the first time in more than three years.

Chicago (29-14-8) is trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2002, and starts play in fourth place in the Western Conference.

One of the biggest contributors this season's success has been an outstanding goaltending tandem. Behind Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin, the Blackhawks have given up the fourth-fewest goals in the league with 133.

Neither player, however, played well on Saturday in a 7-3 loss to Vancouver. Huet gave up three goals on the first six shots, and was pulled after the first period for Khabibulin, who stopped 13 of 17 shots the rest of the way.

"I don't think we played poorly, it was just an unfortunate night," said Kris Versteeg, who had a goal and an assist to increase his rookie scoring lead to 40 points. "It was a couple of lucky bounces and I think that really swung momentum their way. It had nothing to do with we weren't playing well."

Still, Chicago fell to 4-2-0 on its eight-game road trip - the second-longest in franchise history and the lengthiest for any NHL team this season. The swing resumes against a Thrashers (19-31-5) team that is averaging 2.8 tallies in its last 14 contests.

Chicago has won three of five games in Atlanta, including 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 11, 2005 in the teams' last meeting there. But the Thrashers have won two of the last three contests overall, most recently 3-2 on Oct. 27, 2007 in Chicago.

Atlanta, last in the Southeast Division, enters this matchup having won only two of its last eight overall. Kari Lehtonen made 40 saves in Tuesday's 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay.

"We kind of limited their options," said Colin Stuart, who scored for the first time this season. "We tried to keep the shots outside and let Kari see them."

Ilya Kovalchuk also notched his team-high 23rd goal, and has recorded 23 of his team-leading 53 points at home, where the Thrashers will be looking to end a three-game skid.

Kovalchuk has six goals and two assists during a three-game point streak against the Blackhawks - one of three teams Lehtonen has never faced in his NHL career. It's unclear if he or backup Johan Hedberg, 4-1-0 with a 2.34 GAA in six career matchups against Chicago, will start.

Chicago has rotated goaltenders in its previous 21 games, but that trend may not continue in Atlanta. Khabibulin made 29 saves in the Blackhawks' latest game there, and is 5-3-0 with a 2.69 GAA in his last eight games against the Thrashers.

Huet, meanwhile, is 5-0-1 with a 1.78 GAA in his last six contests versus Atlanta.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 11 '09 CHI 3 at ATL 1 J. Toews
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
P. Kane50172946-23492
M. Havlat52172542+111852
K. Versteeg49152641+174742
J. Toews52172340+73356
P. Sharp52231538+23984
B. Campbell5273037+71241
D. Bolland52122133+172003
A. Ladd5292332+201800
D. Keith4862329+263221
C. Barker3942125-54141
D. Byfuglien4891019+15932
T. Brouwer4371017+103630
B. Seabrook5251015+134520
C. Fraser524913+54400
B. Eager488412+69500
A. Johnson27358+182401
J. Wisniewski22178+51000
M. Walker40088+135100
A. Burish36527+56202
C. Adams30246-11810
B. Sopel23112-4801
J. Skille6101-2500
J. Hendry8000-1400
N. Hjalmarsson2000+0000
P. Pelletier1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
N. Khabibulin2917-5-5668702.37.924
C. Huet2613-9-3596842.41.914
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
I. Kovalchuk56243054-173373
V. Kozlov56182947-173282
T. White56143145-131690
B. Little53211334-51273
R. Hainsey5652126-161630
C. Armstrong56141024-16122
R. Peverley4051722-41712
J. Williams4171118-9842
M. Reasoner538917+42600
E. Christensen3941115-7800
E. Perrin535914-61010
J. Slater465914-13000
M. Schneider4341014-124810
N. Havelid5611112+14000
C. Thorburn566511-66400
T. Enstrom5611011+03801
N. Oystrick37369-112200
E. Boulton52279+012300
J. Crabb26347-22801
Z. Bogosian21325+11900
B. Valabik33055-48200
G. Exelby33044-75500
C. Stuart7101-1200
J. Motzko6101+1000
B. Sterling3101-2000
S. Lehman1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
K. Lehtonen3010-17-2899693.14.908
J. Hedberg236-9-3655693.49.886
O. Pavelec113-6-0322753.55.884