Sabres Notebook: Blackhawks figure to be in a dark mood - The Buffalo News

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Sabres Notebook: Blackhawks figure to be in a dark mood

CHICAGO -- The Buffalo Sabres might get a bad timing award for showing up in The Windy City when they did.

The Chicago Blackhawks take a five-game losing streak into Friday's matchup in United Center and looking to start a turnaround against a Buffalo club they've dominated in recent years.

The Sabres have lost 11 straight to Chicago (0-9-2) and are 0-6-1 in their previous seven trips to the "Madhouse on Madison," last winning here on Jan. 10, 2007.

"You have to take time and space away. You give them space, they're going to make plays," Buffalo defenseman Marco Scandella said after practice here Thursday. "This is a group where most of them have been together for a long time. They're used to playing with each other. They move the puck well and really can get it going in this building."

Scandella has plenty of experience against the Hawks from his days in Minnesota, including three straight playoff losses from 2013-15 where two of them where on Chicago's path to the Stanley Cup. But the Hawks are in a different spot these days, sitting sixth in the Central Division and just outside the Western Conference playoff teams in the wild-card race.

The Hawks started the season 3-0-1 and it has set the tone for a campaign of wild mood swings. A 2-5-1 stretch was followed by a 7-3-1 run that seemingly got things back in order.

But now the Hawks are 0-3-2 in the last five, scoring just 10 goals and enduring a 1-for-21 struggle on the power play. It's their longest losing streak since a nine-gamer in the 2011-12 season.

There has to be concern in the Hawks camp being out of a playoff position in early December.

"We know what we’re up against going forward," captain Jonathan Toews said after Wednesday's 6-2 loss in Washington. "But when you say you’re concerned, it means that you doubt yourself and you don’t think that you have what it takes to be where you want to be in the standings. But for us, that’s not at all the case."

"There’s always a certain degree of desperation that has to be there,” added defenseman Duncan Keith. “Everybody can see the standings, what they are. And we want to be better than what we have been right now. Obviously, it’s not been good enough, and we need to be better.”

The Blackhawks outshot the Caps, 39-25, and had 68 shot attempts in the game but were in a 3-0 hole through 16 minutes and never caught up.

"Don’t be fooled,” coach Joel Quenneville grumbled after the game. "Shots hit them right in the chest, with no chance of getting a second opportunity. It’s almost like we gave the puck back to them, just putting it at the net with no purpose.”

Goaltender Corey Crawford has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and is eligible to come off injured reserve Friday. The Hawks initially said he would return Sunday against Arizona but Crawford skated with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite here Thursday prior to the Sabres' practice while the rest of his team was off. It will be interesting to see if he declares himself ready for Buffalo.

The Hawks will be looking for an instant turnaround with consecutive home games against the Sabres, Florida and Arizona, the three teams at the bottom of the NHL's overall standings.

"If we play the right way, we're a hard team to play against," Keith said. "We have to be excited going back home in our building and try to use that momentum being at home."

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South Buffalo native Patrick Kane continues to lead the Hawks in assists (17) and points (27) while Artem Anisimov is the team leader in goals with 12. Kane has 779 career points in 768 games. He has 295 goals and is five shy of becoming the fifth Hawk with 300. Kane will also become the fifth Hawk to 800 points. The other four in both categtories are Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard and Steve Larmer.

Keith's defense partner is former Sabres blueliner Cody Franson, who was not re-signed after last season and took a professional tryout offer from the Hawks before signing a one-year, $1 million deal.

Franson has one goal and six assists in 18 games with a minus-3 rating. But he's a darling of the analytics community and giving them more fodder to date by leading the Hawks with a 57 percent Corsi rating.

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The Sabres have announced they will hold a "Mega Raffle" on Jan. 12 in the Lexus Club at KeyBank Center. It will feature prizes including Sabres autographed items, team experiences and tickets. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the first spin in the meat raffle-style event will be at 7. Sabres alumni and broadcast personalities will be on hand.

There will be 12 raffle rounds with 3-4 spins per round. Ticket prices per round will range from $2-5 depending on the level of prizes available.

Fans are encouraged to purchase individual tickets or reserve tables in advance, as space is limited. Admission is $20 and includes food and beverages. Tables of 10 can be reserved. Proceeds benefit the Sabres Foundation. Contact coordinator of community relations Nick Fearby at Nick.Fearby@sabres.com.

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