Blackhawks hope to snap skid vs. Sabres

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will try to snap a five-game winless streak when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the United Center.

Chicago (12-11-5) has been outscored 19-10 during its slump, which has included three losses in regulation time, one in overtime and one in the shootout. The Blackhawks have slipped outside of the Western Conference's eight playoff spots but remain confident that they can turn their season around.

"Clearly, we're not happy with where we are in the standings," Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "We know what we're up against going forward. But when you say you're concerned, it means that you doubt yourself and you don't think that you have what it takes to be where you want to be in the standings. But for us, that's not at all the case."

Buffalo (7-17-4) also is not happy with its first two months of the season. The Sabres are coming off of a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche but have a paltry 2-9-2 record in their past 13 contests.

Scoring has not come easily for Buffalo, which had one goal or less in four consecutive games before Tuesday's win. Evander Kane leads the Sabres with 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists), and Jack Eichel is next on the team with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists).

Chicago is led by Patrick Kane, who has 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 28 games. Other double-digit goal scorers on the team include Artem Anisimov (12 goals), Alex DeBrincat (11) and Brandon Saad (10).

The Blackhawks might turn to a fresh face to help them snap out of their funk. On Thursday, the team placed Tanner Kero on waivers, creating a roster spot for someone to come up from Rockford of the AHL.

The opening could be filled by Vinnie Hinostroza, who has nine goals and 13 assists in 23 AHL games this season. Hinostroza had six goals and eight assists in 49 games with the Blackhawks last season.

Buffalo coach Phil Housley said his players needed to be focused from the opening faceoff.

"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," Housley said to the Buffalo News. "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."

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford is 8-0-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in eight career starts against Buffalo, but he has been sidelined because of a lower-body injury and his status is uncertain for Friday. He is 11-7-2 with a 2.29 GAA and .930 save percentage this season.

If Crawford remains out, look for Anton Forsberg to man the net for the Blackhawks. He is 1-4-3 with a 3.33 GAA and .906 save percentage this season. He is 0-1-0 with a 4.18 GAA and .871 save percentage in his lone career start against Buffalo.

On the opposite end of the ice, Robin Lehner is expected to start for the Sabres. Lehner is 6-12-2 with a 2.93 GAA and .906 save percentage. In two games against Chicago, he is 0-2-0 with a 3.52 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

Buffalo's backup netminder is Chad Johnson, who is 1-5-2 with a 3.64 GAA and an .883 save percentage. Johnson has faced Chicago three times, posting a 0-2-1 record with a 2.29 GAA and .927 save percentage.

This is the first of two meetings this season between the teams.
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