Maple Leafs-Blackhawks Preview

Some streaky play over the last six weeks continues to frustrate
the Chicago Blackhawks.

A visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs could help end their latest
rough stretch.

The Blackhawks look to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat
Wednesday night when they try for a seventh straight win over the
struggling Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup at the United
Center.

Since Jan. 15, Chicago (33-24-7) has won three in row, then lost
nine straight prior to winning the next four before dropping its
last three. That stretch of inconsistency has left the Blackhawks
stuck in the bottom half of the top eight teams in the Western
Conference playoff race.

Chicago has been outscored 10-2 by Dallas, Los Angeles and
Anaheim during their current three-game skid. The Blackhawks have
scored four times in the last four games without star captain
Jonathan Toews, who will miss his fifth straight contest because of
an apparent concussion.

Though Blackhawks ended an 0-for-39 power-play drought with
Patrick Kane’s first-period goal Sunday, they recorded a season-low
19 shots for the second straight game in a 3-1 road loss to the
Ducks.

“Offensively, we’re not doing much right now,” said Kane, who
has a career-low 14 goals in 64 games. “We need some contributions
from everyone. You can always say you need your best players to be
your best players. That’s something that we need to get better at,
too, including myself.”

Missing Toews and his team-leading 29 goals won’t help, but the
Blackhawks might have a better chance of preventing pucks from
reaching the net with Monday’s acquisition of defenseman Johnny
Oduya from Winnipeg. The sixth-year veteran had two goals with 11
assists in 63 games for the Jets in 2011-12. He hopes to help a
short-handed defense corps without Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve
Montador due to upper-body injuries.

“(Oduya’s) style really fits in with us,” Blackhawks general
manager Stan Bowman said. “He’ll eat up minutes for us on
defense.”

With Oduya, Chicago looks to continue its recent dominance over
Toronto (29-27-7), which has been outscored 26-15 during an 0-5-1
series stretch that dates to a 3-1 victory at the United Center on
Feb. 12, 2003.

Kane has two goals with three assists in four career games
versus Toronto. Teammate Marian Hossa has six with seven assists in
his last nine against the Maple Leafs, including one of each during
Chicago’s 5-3 win at Toronto on March 5.

The Maple Leafs lost for the ninth time in 10 games, 5-3 at home
to Florida on Tuesday. Toronto, 10th in the East and four points
out of the final playoff spot, has not reached the postseason since
2004.

“Every guy is embarrassed,” defenseman Luke Schenn said. “It’s
definitely not fun right now.”

While Toronto’s faithful fans continue to jeer coach Ron Wilson,
general manager Brian Burke declared his support for his embattled
coach Monday.

“You get exasperated and you get frustrated,” Wilson said. “But
(Wednesday’s) a new day. We’ve got to pull up our bootstraps and
get going.”

Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul each had a goal and an assist
while Dion Phaneuf added three assists Tuesday for the Maple Leafs,
who have allowed 38 goals in the last nine games.

Kessel has six goals with 10 assists in the last 12 contests,
and five goals in five career games versus Chicago.