Friday, March 21, 2014
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Preview: Hurricanes at Blackhawks

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[March 21, 2014]  (SportsDirect Inc.)

The Carolina Hurricanes are quickly running out of time in their quest for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in the same squeeze in their pursuit of the top seed in the West as the teams face off Friday night in the Windy City. Chicago is coming off an impressive 4-0 victory over St. Louis, but still finds itself six points behind the conference-leading Blues with 12 to play and lost star Patrick Kane to a knee injury in the win.

Carolina's situation is more dire as the Hurricanes are nine points out of the East wild-card race, but have four teams between them and that final playoff spot. Carolina's postseason aspirations were bolstered slightly last time out, as it earned a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on the strength of a sensational 46-save performance from Anton Khudobin. Patrick Sharp had the shootout winner as Chicago earned a 3-2 victory in its last encounter Oct. 15.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSCR (Carolina), CSCH (Chicago)

ABOUT THE HURRICANES (30-30-9): Carolina coach Kirk Muller is not thrilled with how his team has played of late, and tore a strip off his players following a particularly grueling Monday practice. He berated them for "playing for the scoresheet" while shouting that "losing is for losers"  and apparently the message sunk in, as Carolina responded against the Blue Jackets. "You're a good group of guys but the culture is going to change," he told his players, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. "It takes work, it takes togetherness."

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (40-15-15): The mood was somber in the Chicago dressing room following the injury to Kane, putting a damper on what was one of the team's most complete victories of the season. "It's tough," forward Andrew Shaw told reporters. "You can't replace a guy like that. Guys have to step up. We have to compete and work for one another." Kane, who sits in the top 10 in league scoring with 69 points in as many games, is expected to miss three weeks but could be out longer than that.

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OVERTIME

  1. The teams have split their last six meetings dating back to 2008.

  2. Khudobin has stopped 77 of 80 shots over his last two games.

  3. Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is still looking for his first goal this month, having been limited to five assists in 10 games.

PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Hurricanes 1

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