Blackhawks-Sabres Preview

The addition of Marian Hossa has helped the Chicago Blackhawks

continue their strong play, but they’ve had some difficulty finding

the back of the net recently.

Chicago could catch a break Friday night when it travels to face

the Buffalo Sabres, potentially facing former teammate Patrick

Lalime instead of one of the league’s top goaltenders, Ryan

Miller.

After rehabbing for nearly two months from offseason shoulder

surgery, Hossa – signed by the Blackhawks for $62.8 million over 12

years – made a splash with two goals in his debut with the team, a

7-2 victory at San Jose on Nov. 25.

Chicago (19-7-3) has tallied nine total goals – four by Jonathan

Toews – in six games since then, but the Central Division leaders

are 3-2-1 in that span, including consecutive 2-1 overtime

victories over Pittsburgh last Saturday and the New York Rangers on

Wednesday.

“We’ll take the wins and worry about how we win later,” coach

Joel Quenneville said.

Despite a 41-18 advantage in shots on goal, the Blackhawks were

held scoreless by the visiting Rangers until Toews scored the tying

goal with 5:55 remaining in regulation.

In overtime, 6-foot-4, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien swept around

the New York defense for the winning score.

“It was the highlight of the year,” Quenneville said. “Great

speed, great presence of mind. He cut in. Nice finish as well.”

Toews had a goal and an assist in last season’s 4-1 home victory

over the Sabres. Lalime, who played two seasons in Chicago before

signing with Buffalo for 2008-09, took the loss in that matchup.

Current Blackhawks starter Cristobal Huet stopped 22 shots to beat

him.

Published reports in Buffalo indicate Lalime could get another

start against his former team Friday. Buffalo (17-9-2) might opt to

rest Miller – among the league leaders with a 1.82 goals-against

average – for a more important Eastern Conference matchup Saturday

night, against the Rangers in the opener of a three-game road

trip.

Miller helped the Sabres avoid a three-game slide Wednesday

night with a 35-save effort and his fourth shutout of the season,

3-0 over visiting Washington, the league’s highest-scoring

team.

“We all knew what was at stake,” Miller said after his eighth

straight start. “You can’t lose three in a row and call yourself a

top team. You have to keep pace with the big teams, and we got back

on our feet.”

Lalime, meanwhile, has a 4.55 GAA in three appearances this

season and hasn’t played since giving up five goals at Ottawa on

Nov. 21. He’s also endured hip and groin injuries over the past two

years.

Lalime is 2-5-2 with a 3.17 GAA against the Blackhawks.

Huet, who used to play for the Sabres’ Northeast Division rival

Montreal, is 6-2-1 with a 1.86 GAA in his last nine games against

Buffalo. Backup Antti Niemi has never faced the Sabres.

This is the first visit to Buffalo for the Blackhawks since a

3-1 loss Dec. 15, 2007. They haven’t won there since a 6-5 victory

Dec. 19, 2001.