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Preview: Here Come the Hawks

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Sabres continue three-game roadstand in Chicago

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Game #29

Buffalo Sabres (7-17-4) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12-11-5)

Puck drop: 8:30 p.m. EST | United Center | Chicago, IL

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Blackhawks blog: Second City Hockey

What to Watch

1. Two struggling teams

The Blackhawks have lost five in a row heading into tonight's game against the Sabres. Chicago currently sits 12th in the Western Conference, just three points ahead of Colorado below them.

Meanwhile, we all know Buffalo recently snapped a four-game losing streak that saw them score one measly goal. They finally broke the streak with a win in Colorado earlier this week. The Sabres are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and will remain there for at least a bit, no matter what happens tonight; they're sitting seven points behind Ottawa.

In other words, both teams badly need a win tonight.

For the Sabres, this is the second game of a three-game road trip. After tonight's game, they'll head to St. Louis for a rare Sunday tilt with the Blues.

2. Buffalo's bad luck against Chicago

To put it bluntly, the Sabres have been struggling hard against a talented Blackhawks team. The teams haven't met since February, but overall, the Sabres are 0-8-2 in their last ten games against the 'Hawks. Buffalo hasn't won in Chicago since January 10, 2007 - over ten years ago.

The Sabres haven't beaten the Blackhawks since December 11, 2009.

3. No offense

The Sabres need goals, and they need them badly. After being shutout for three consecutive games, the Sabres have scored five goals in the past two games, including Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Avalanche.

It's alright, but it needs to be better. Buffalo's scored just 60 goals this season, the lowest in the league. San Jose, right above them, has scored 11 more goals in one fewer game.

Of course, it's not just about the offensive. The Sabres have also allowed 96 goals-against this season for a minus-36 goal differential, tied for worst in the league! Only Arizona (110 GA in 31 games) has allowed more goals this season so far.

Know Your Opponent

1. Hello, old friend.

Does the name Cody Franson ring a bell? Well, Sabres fans will get to see our old friend tonight as he suits up for the Blackhawks.

Franson had 36 points (7-29) in 127 games with the Sabres between 2015-2017 and was, well, less than a fan-favorite at times.

He has seven points (1-6) and is a minus-3 in 18 games with the Blackhawks so far this season.

2. Crawford is back.

Corey Crawford is back in the lineup for the Blackhawks. He took plenty of shots against in this morning's skate and was the first goalie off the ice.

Crawford has appeared in 21 games this season for the Blackhawks, going 11-7-2 with a 2.29 GAA and .930 save percentage.

He's been out since November 30 with a lower-body injury. Initially, the Hawks said Wednesday that it was more likely Crawford would be reserved for Sunday's game against Arizona, but it looks like he'll be back tonight against the Sabres instead.

3. Mixing up the lines

The Blackhawks look to be working in some new line combinations, including a top-six filled with talent. Their top line in Friday's morning skate consisted of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and youngster Alex DeBrincat. The second line was an equally potent combination of Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane.

Projected Lineup

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville

67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 24 Hudson Fasching

20 Scott Wilson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 28 Zemgus Girgensons

17 Jordan Nolan - 22 Johan Larsson - 23 Sam Reinhart

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

19 Jake McCabe - 47 Zach Bogosian

4 Josh Gorges - 93 Victor Antipin - 41 Justin Falk (scratch TBD)

Starting Goaltender: 40 Robin Lehner