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Darling of a matchup as Hurricanes visit Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Goaltender Scott Darling will face his former team when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at the United Center.

Darling, 29, spent his first three seasons with the Blackhawks and helped the team win a Stanley Cup championship in 2015. Chicago traded him to Carolina at the end of last season in exchange for a third-round draft pick.

Less than a year later, Darling has maintained a close friendship with several players on the Blackhawks, including fellow goaltender Corey Crawford. He smiled when a reporter asked whether he would feel emotional playing in Chicago again.

"What do you mean I'm emotional?" he jokingly responded in comments that were published by John Dietz of the Daily Herald. "Nah, I'm just excited. It's something I've been looking forward to. Obviously, it's going to be weird, but I feel like once the puck drops, it will be just another game."

Carolina (29-27-11) could use a strong game as it attempts to climb into one of the Eastern Conference's top eight playoff spots. The Hurricanes have dropped two games in a row and are 2-6-2 since Feb. 15.

Added to Carolina's plate was the news Wednesday that general manager and beloved former player Ron Francis had been moved from his role and will now be the president of hockey operations. The team is conducting a search for a replacement general manager, who will report directly to new owner Tom Dundon, according to The News and Observer.

Goaltender Jean-Francois Berube is scheduled to start for the Blackhawks (29-30-8). Berube earned the victory in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime conquest of Colorado and has a 2-1-0 record with a 3.10 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in five games (three starts).

Darling shined as Crawford's backup in Chicago, but has endured a bumpy season with the Hurricanes. He is 10-16-7, 3.09, .889 in 35 games (32 starts). He faced the Blackhawks once in Carolina but never in Chicago. In his first matchup Nov. 11, he allowed four goals on 30 shots and absorbed the loss in overtime.

Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane praised Darling's skills regardless of any recent struggles by the netminder.

"It'll be good to see Scotty back here," said Kane, who once acted on stage alongside Darling during the team's fan convention. "I'm sure he'll get a great ovation from the crowd. Did some great things here."

Kane leads the Blackhawks with 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists) in 67 games. Alex DeBrincat (22 goals) and Nick Schmaltz (20) also have joined the 20-goal club, while Artem Anisimov (19) and Toews (18) are on the doorstep.

Carolina is led in scoring by yet another former Blackhawks player, Teuvo Teravainen, who has 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists) in 67 games. Teravainen played parts of three seasons in Chicago before he was traded to the Hurricanes in 2016.

Forwards Sebastian Aho (23 goals) and Jeff Skinner (20) have found the back of the net the most for Carolina this season. Veteran Justin Williams, 36, also is near the top of the scoring list with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 67 games.

This is the second and final meeting of the regular season.
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