Panthers-Blackhawks Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t panicking after dropping three

consecutive games. A chance to face an Eastern Conference team,

especially one they’ve dominated lately, might get them back on

track.

Chicago will try to add to its 7-0-2 record against the East

this season by earning a fifth straight win over the Florida

Panthers on Sunday night.

After suffering back-to-back regulation defeats, the Blackhawks

(20-6-5) fell 3-2 in a shootout against Anaheim on Friday.

“Frustrating. You can’t overreact to it,” captain Jonathan Toews

said of the slide. “You just have to keep improving on the little

things we do well as a team, and know that if keep working, we’ll

eventually get the breaks.”

Chicago will try to bounce back by remaining the NHL’s only team

without a regulation defeat in interconference play. The

Blackhawks, though, haven’t faced an East opponent since beating

Ottawa 6-5 on Oct. 29.

That victory came one week after a 3-2 shootout win in Florida.

Chicago blew a two-goal lead in the third period of that game

before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored in the shootout.

The Blackhawks could get some help from a former Panther in this

game, Kris Versteeg. The winger returned to Chicago in a

four-player deal that sent Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes to Florida

on Nov. 14.

Versteeg’s goal late in the second period of Friday’s game

allowed the Blackhawks to collect their first point in three

contests, and he also had an assist. He has two goals and five

assists in 12 games with Chicago.

Olsen and Hayes have also started to produce for Florida. The

two players each scored in a 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Thursday that

ended a three-game skid, and Hayes scored another goal while Olsen

had an assist in a 2-1 win in Detroit on Saturday.

The Panthers outshot the Red Wings 28-14 in the final two

periods while bouncing back from an early 1-0 deficit.

”When the other team scores the first goal, we usually

struggle, kind of back on our heels,” said Jonathan Huberdeau, who

scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period. ”But we were able

to get the tying goal.”

The Panthers (9-16-5) will try to notch a season-high third

straight victory by earning their first win over Chicago since

March 8, 2011. The Blackhawks are also 6-1-1 in the last eight

matchups with Florida.

Chicago, though, could use better penalty killing to extend that

success. The Blackhawks have given up five goals the last 11 times

they’ve been short-handed.

Chicago’s power play has been effective, however, in the last

four games, going 4 for 15. Florida also has four goals in its last

15 opportunities with a man advantage but has allowed eight

power-play goals in its past 26 times penalty kills.

Chicago might get forward Andrew Shaw back on the ice after a

two-game absence due to an upper-body ailment. Shaw had four goals

and two assists in the six games before suffering his injury.

Shaw has one assist in his two career games against Florida

while two of Chicago’s stars have shined in recent matchups.

Patrick Kane has five goals and six assists during a seven-game

point streak versus the Panthers, and Toews has three goals and

three assists in his last four meetings.

Chicago hasn’t lost four straight since an 0-8-1 skid Jan.

21-Feb. 14, 2012.