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Sabres know what to expect, even with Hawks on five-game skid

CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks have lost five straight and have to be thinking the end of their streak can come Friday night in United Center. The Buffalo Sabres know what to expect.

"It's going to be important to have a good start against this team and not let the crowd get into it because that sort of feeds their engine," Sabres coach Phil Housley said after practice late Thursday afternoon. "If we play our game like the last game in Colorado it's going to be important because you can't let these guys wheel and deal. You give them room and space, they'll take advantage of it. They're still really deadly up front and attack the game."

Defenseman Marco Scandella has gone through many battles with the Blackhawks while with Minnesota, including playoff series. Don't tell him the Hawks are vulnerable, even though Chicago currently sits outside the playoff picture by a point.

"It's a great team but it's good to see there's a lot of energy in our room and guys are excited to play here," Scandella said. "Everyone knows this is a fun place to play. You have to take time and space away. You give them space, they're going to make plays. 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."

The Hawks are 0-3-2 in the last five games, scoring just 10 goals and going 1 for 21 on the power play. Goaltender Corey Crawford (lower body) has missed the last three games and is eligible to come off injured reserve Friday. The Hawks were off Thursday but Crawford skated alone with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite so it will be interesting to see if Crawford returns.

Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (flu) remains home and Housley has ruled him out for Friday's game. It would seem likely the Sabres would simply tell Beaulieu to stay home and not come to St. Louis for the finale of Sunday's road trip, with the idea to get him back for Tuesday's home game against Ottawa.

Zemgus Girgensons remained the extra forward at practice on Thursday and will likely sit out for the second straight game as a healthy scratch. Josh Gorges was a scratch Tuesday and was an extra defenseman Thursday, and could be in the same boat.

Evan Rodrigues got some work at the point on a power play unit with Zach Bogosian behind Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

The set up at practice was:


PP1: Kane-Eichel-Reinhart-Bogosian-Rodrigues
PP2: Okposo-O'Reilly-Fasching-Ristolainen-Pominville


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