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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, December 8th (All times Eastern)
Florida Panthers (9-16-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (20-6-5), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to halt their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Florida Panthers in Sunday's battle at United Center.
The Blackhawks have lost three straight, going 0-2-1 during a slide that comes directly on the heels of a season-best six-game winning streak.
The defending Stanley Cup champions never lost three in a row during last year's lockout-shortened regular season, but Chicago did drop three straight to Detroit during the 2013 postseason. The Blackhawks lost Games 2, 3 and 4 in the second round against the Red Wings last spring, but took the final three tilts to win the series in seven.
Chicago, of course, went on to beat the Los Angeles Kings in five games to take the Western Conference title and then defeated Boston in six to claim the franchise's second Cup in four years.
The Blackhawks last lost three straight in the regular season from Feb. 23-26, 2012. Chicago's hasn't dropped four in a row since a nine-game slide from Jan. 21-Feb. 14 of the 2011-12 campaign.
The first two losses of Chicago's current slide came via 4-3 regulation setbacks against Dallas and Minnesota on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The Blackhawks then dropped a shootout decision to Anaheim on Friday in the first tilt of a brief two-game homestand in the Windy City.
Kyle Palmieri scored the winner in the shootout to lead the Ducks to a 3-2 decision at the United Center on Friday. In the second round, Palmieri faked to the backhand and lifted it over Antti Raanta. Patrick Kane then had his backhand stopped by Jonas Hiller to end the game and give Anaheim its fifth straight win over the Blackhawks.
"We were finding ways to win close games, but the last few those bounces haven't been going our way," said Kane. "We won't overreact, though, and just work hard to get back to some wins."
Kris Versteeg had a goal and an assist and Ben Smith also scored for the Blackhawks, who overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to force overtime on Friday. Raanta made 24 saves in the loss, which dropped Chicago to 9-2-4 as the host this season.
Corey Crawford expects to get the start in net tonight for Chicago and is 3-1-0 with a 2.00 goals against average in four career games against the Panthers.
Chicago has won four straight in the series with the Panthers and recorded a 3-2 shootout win in Florida on Oct. 22. Versteeg was still a member of the Panthers in that meeting earlier this season before being dealt to the Blackhawks in a trade on Nov. 14.
Versteeg is in his second stint with Chicago after helping the Blackhawks win a Cup in 2010. The 27-year-old winger has two goals and five assists in 12 games since last month's trade and has recorded 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in 30 total games with the Panthers and 'Hawks this season.
Florida has won two straight and can record its first three-game winning streak of the season with another victory on Sunday. The Panthers, however, have lost two straight in Chicago and are just 4-9-2 on the road this season.
Still, the Panthers are coming off a win Saturday in Detroit, as Jonathan Huberdeau netted the game-winner 3:29 into the third period to lift Florida to a 2-1 decision at Joe Louis Arena.
Jimmy Hayes also lit the lamp and Shawn Matthias tallied a pair of assists for the Panthers. Tim Thomas turned aside 22 shots to backstop the victory.
"We're doing the simple things and keeping our energy level high," Hayes said of the team notching back-to-back wins.
After completing a short two-game road trip on Sunday, Florida will return home for a two-game stint at BB&T Center. The brief home stretch is set to begin Tuesday against Washington.
12/08 10:53:11 ET