Photo: AP

From A Tiny Spark: Hawks Host Calgary

Shhhh… Come closer…

I’m not going to say this too loud. I’m preposterously superstitious, and the jinx factor is as strong as using the word “sh****t” when a goalie is going into the third period with no goals against. So lean in…

The Blackhawks have a winning streak going. Five games and counting.

Knockonwoodofcourseitcouldchangeanyminute.

The ‘Hawks look to extend that run of good fortune tonight as they take on the Calgary Flames at the United Center. This is the last of four meetings with Head Coach Brent Sutter’s squad, and we are losing the season’s series 2 – 1 at the moment. In our last effort the Blackhawks fell behind in the 1st period while getting outshot 10 – 3, and were unable to fully recover.

Judging by our recent performances against Minnesota and Phoenix, that shouldn’t be an issue this time. The Blackhawks are now averaging well over 10 shots per period, and are finally executing the puck-possession style that won them the Stanley Cup last season. Combine that with nearly-league-leading goaltending from rookie netminder Corey Crawford, and Blackhawks fans have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

The trade deadline has just passed, and Calgary was one of the active teams on the trade market. They added some depth on the blue line by claiming defenseman Brett Carson off waivers from Carolina, and acquired veteran winger Fredrik Modin from the Atlanta Thrashers. Modin is well past his prime and frequently out of the lineup with injuries, but he is healthy now and is expected to play tonight. The 6′ 4″ winger was likely acquired to add some size and scoring threat to the bottom-six forward ranks. His shot, though erratic, is a force to be reckoned with.

Calgary GM Jay Feaster made these additions despite a Calgary roster well stocked with veteran offensive firepower. Every one of their top-six forwards is above 30 points for the season. Captain Jarome Iginla is leading from the front, sitting atop the team scoring leaders with 25 goals and 33 assists on the year. And Alex Tanguay is surging, playing at a point-per-game pace over his last 6 tilts.

Calgary jumped over us in the Western Conference Standings last night, taking two points from St. Louis in a 6 – 0 thumping, their second straight shutout. This puts them in 5th place in the West, and a regulation-time win for the Blackhawks jumps us back over them again, into 4th place ahead of Phoenix — who lost to Dallas 3 – 2 last night.

As much as this scoreboard-watching is decried by the team and the media, it is 100% necessary: we will find ourselves cheering for strange bedfellows as the regular season winds down. We need a minimum 5-point cushion by April 7th: our last two games of the year are against Detroit (*spitting noise*), and I’m predicting we lose both of those games. That means if we’re still in the thick of things when the puck drops against the Scum, our fate is in somebody else’s hands. Nobody wants that.

The Blackhawks welcome their newest member to the team this evening: fresh-off-the-dogsled defenseman Chris Campoli will be in the number 14 uniform, and we are all hoping he turns out to be a more productive (and less alcohol-addicted) addition to the team than Theo Fleury. Campoli comes to us from Ottawa to fill the void left by the injured Jordan Hendry and the waived Nick Boynton. Campoli is known for being a puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman, something the Blackhawks have more than their share of already. But with luck he will provide more stability to a third pairing that has been the Achilles’ heel of the ‘Hawks this season.

Apart from that change, it’s business as usual for the Blackhawks. Last game against Minnesota they dominated from the first minute with a punishing forecheck and forwards that were picking the pockets of the Wild defensemen at every point on the ice surface. Our top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp combined for 6 points, with Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky also notching goals. Repeating that performance every game down the stretch will give Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s team a solid chance at a deep playoff run.

Walking wounded: Blackhawks’ winger Fernando Pisani has been skating with the team in practice, but is still doubtful for tonight’s game; for Calgary, Daymond Langkow and Raitis Ivanans are on injured reserve, a list that now includes defenseman Adam Pardy who has re-injured his shoulder.

Weird start time for a home game, especially since we’re not on a major TV network tonight: 8:00pm at the United Center. Comcast SportsNet has your television coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720 as is always the case, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 207.

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