Blackhawks Look to Take Advantage of Sinking Sabres

The Chicago Blackhawks face one of two possibilities tomorrow night when they host the struggling Buffalo Sabres at the United Center-

Either they recognize and capitalize on the recently unfortunate play of the Buffalo Sabres...

Or, they shrug off the Sabres as any kind of real challenge, come out flat and succumb to the dreaded "trap game" against their unfamiliar distant neighbors to the east.

This is the first and only meeting between the Blackhawks and Sabres this season, with the Hawks taking both games last year, each by a score of 4-3.

The Chicago Blackhawks are finally back on the up-swing after dropping the first five of their last ten games in true slumping fashion. However, the Hawks are now 3-0-2 in their last five games and hope to continue gathering points as they race against St. Louis and Detroit for possession of the top spot in the Central division.

Not many would have guessed that two rookie-forwards for the Blackhawks would continue to contribute significantly game-in and game-out on the score sheet. It's exactly what Chicago needs while Patrick Sharp continues his lengthy recovery from his "upper-body" injury.

Rookies Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw continue to make a case for their extended stays in the Blackhawks lineup. Jimmy Hayes has 3 points in his last 5 games and Shaw also continues to put up numbers with 3 goals in his last 3 games. This additional depth of scoring for the Blackhawks has largely contributed to their stringing together multiple wins as of late.

Corey Crawford, who will start against the Sabres, has played well enough and made the necessary saves to help his team win. Though he has allowed a soft goal here and there, a significant number of goals that have found their way past the Chicago netminder are largely due to defensive breakdowns, something the Hawks have struggled with all season long.

The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, are experiencing a much different fate. Star goalie, Ryan Miller, has struggled mightily this season. Even when the Sabres were winning more games than losing earlier this year, Miller was not even close to his Vezina Trophy winning form in 2010. He's currently 11-13-2 on the season, has a .898 save percentage and carries a GAA of 3.12. His backup, Jhonas Enroth, hasn't faired much better.

The Sabres are getting impressive production from Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, as to be expected, but are missing much contribution from Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. Pominville and Vanek are close to point per game players this year with 44 and 41 points in 45 games, respectively.

Rookie, Luke Adam, began the season with very promising offensive totals, but has faded back as of late, though still on pace for nearly 40 points this season. In addition to the lack of scoring depth sorely needed by the re-vamped Buffalo squad of this year, the Sabres are missing several key starting players to injury, including, Tyler Ennis and Christian Erhoff, acquired as a free agent this summer to solve the Sabres offensive hole on the blue line.

On paper, this is a game that lies heavily in Chicago's favor if they can continue to score goals like they have recently. But if they're not careful, they could find themselves quickly on the losing side of this match against a speedy Buffalo team.

Keep An Eye Out For - 

Viktor Stalberg: He's still riding a hot streak with 5 goals in his last 5 games, including a hat trick against Columbus.

Dave Bolland: Also has 5 points in his last 5 games, including a 3 point night against Minnesota.

The Rookies: They're becoming harder and harder to overlook.

Patrick Kaleta: He's got 3 points in his last 3 games, but he's not the type of player that your team should rely to maintain a hot streak if you're looking to be successful.

Injuries - 

Daniel Carcillo is still out for the remainder of the season (ACL) but did have successful knee surgery and has begun his recovery. For Buffalo, in addition to missing Ennis and Erhoff, Robin Regehr and Colin Stuart are also out for Buffalo.

Tomorrow night's game will be televised on NBC Sports Network and TSN 2 at 6:30 pm CT.

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