Blackhawks start annual circus trip with game vs Flames

The Blackhawks (10-7-1) are starting off their ten-day annual "Circus trip" tonight with a game versus the Calgary Flames.

Historically, the late November swing - nicknamed the "circus" trip becuase of the circus which sets up shop at the United Center for two weeks, forcing both the Blackhawks and Bulls out on the road - has been a bonding experience for the team, both off and on the ice. The Blackhawks have been 17-7-1 during their past four circus trips.

Calgary has been a pleasant surprise among the Western teams so far this season, going 12-6-2 (26 points) to date, which puts them third in the Pacific, ahead of both the Kings (24 points) and Sharks (22 points). They're a hard-working team which has received solid goaltending to start the year, putting them in a good position thus far.

The Flames have split their first 20 games nearly evenly against both conferences, going 7-2-0 versus the Western conference thus far - including their October 15th overtime win at the United Center vs the Blackhawks.

Perhaps you don't know some of the star players for the Flames, but here's a few names you should get to know:

 

  • Sean Monahan, 20, a 2013 first-round (6th overall) Draft pick, who is in his second year of pro hockey. Last season, he put up 34 points in 75 games; so far this season, he has earned 7 goals and 5 assists in 20 games.
  • Defenseman Mark Giordano is also among league leaders for NHL defensemen; this could be his breakout season. Like Nashville's Shea Weber and Chicago's Duncan Keith, Giordano eats up big ice time (~24 TOI/game).
  • Johnny Gaudreau - nicknamed "Johnny Hockey" - has also been electric to start the season. Gaudreau was picked 104th overall (4th round) in 2011; last year, he won the Hobey Baker Award, which is for the best player in the NCAA. Gaudreau has put together 3 goals and 10 assists so far this season.

Additionally, Calgary strengthed their goaltending tandem by acquiring Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller this summer. Hiller, who is expected to start tonight, has started his season 9-4-1, with a .920 sv% and 2.33 GAA, including one shut out. Finnish backup Karri Ramo is 3-2-1 with a .903 sv% and 2.73 GAA.

Blackhawks rookie defenseman Trevor van Reimsdyk underwent successful surgery on his left patella (kneecap). He is expected to miss 3-4 months, which would put him back in the lineup shortly before the playoffs. Van Reimsdyk was injured when he took a puck in the knee in Sunday's game versus the Stars.

In TvR's place, Adam Clendening was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs, and will make his NHL debut tonight. Clendening was a second-round pick in 2011. Last season he had 12 goals and 47 assists with the IceHogs. He is expected to be paire with Michal Rozsival, and will see time on the second power-play unit.

Corey Crawford (7-4-1, .929 sv%, 1.88 GAA) will get the start for Chicago.

Where to watch: CSN-Chicago,

INJURY REPORT

- Andrew Shaw will miss Thursday's game with an undisclosed upper body injury. He is not expected to be out for long.

- Patrick Sharp remains out of the lineup, but may join the team late on the trip.

QUICK SHOTS

- Goaltender Antti Raanta is expected to get a start this weekend, either versus the Oilers or Canucks.