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Blackhawks arrive in Buffalo with no playoffs in sight

During Phil Housley's four seasons in Nashville, the coach knew the Chicago Blackhawks stood between the Predators and a Stanley Cup.

Chicago won't be in anyone's way this season.

The Blackhawks' nine-year run as a Cup contender has come to an end. They are in 12th place in the Western Conference, 15 points out of a playoff spot.

Still, Housley knows the Blackhawks too well to count them out of Saturday's 1 p.m. meeting in KeyBank Center.

"They're the No. 1 team off the rush for shots on net, so that tells you that they still can attack the game with speed," Housley said. "They've been going through their ups and downs this year. That's still a good team over there with a lot of speed, so we have to manage that and we have to be smart, and we've got to be ready to start on time."

The Blackhawks still boast forwards Patrick Kane (25 goals, 67 points) and Jonathan Toews (19 goals, 49 points). They've added youngsters Nick Schmaltz (20 goals, 47 points) and Alex DeBrincat (22 goals, 42 points).

But No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford has played in just 28 games because of a suspected concussion, and the team has stumbled to a 30-33-8 record.

"They have that nucleus still intact, but I think Crawford being out has hurt them," Sabres right wing Kyle Okposo said. "He's a big part of their core, and anytime your starting goalie misses a substantial amount of time, it's tough to recover from."

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