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Nashville, Detroit keeping pace with Blackhawks
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/16/2009 12:00 AM

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Blackhawks game day

St. Louis Blues at the United Center, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: Hard to believe it's the middle of December and the Hawks and Blues are meeting for the first time. Cristobal Huet starts in goal and will face what was the NHL's worst power play before Tuesday's games. The Blues had no forward with more than 9 goals prior to hosting Calgary on Tuesday and were led in scoring by defenseman Erik Johnson.

Last season: The Blues beat the Hawks four times in six games including twice in overtime. Huet was 1-2 with 2-0 and 1-0 losses.

Next: Boston Bruins at the United Center, 7:30 p.m. Friday.

It doesn't seem right that the Blackhawks have gone 15-5-2 since Oct. 24 yet find the Central Division standings closer than ever.

Nashville has refused to go away and, oh, yeah, the Red Wings have crept within 4 points of the Hawks despite their injury problems.

"I look at the schedule and the standings three times a day," Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "It just seems you can't get away from teams.

"The Red Wings are still a good team and they're still going to challenge. They're just kind of taking their time right now and getting their points still. It's amazing they're still doing that with all the injuries they've had."

The Hawks take a 20-8-3 record into Wednesday night's game against St. Louis at the United Center, which kicks off a critical stretch of five games leading up to the two-day Christmas break.

After meeting the division rival Blues for the first time this season, the Hawks play three more games at home against Boston, Detroit and San Jose before a rematch with the Red Wings on Dec. 23 at Joe Louis Arena.

"Maybe you try and set a goal if you have five games coming up of how many points you want to get, like a road trip," Campbell said. "These are all tough teams coming in, but I think we're starting to peak back up after last game.

"For us, we look in the loss column and hopefully we can keep that number under 10 until at least the Christmas break and maybe a little bit after. That's the key one I look at a lot."

The Hawks are coming off a tidy 4-0 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday while the Blues have been struggling and had to face a tough Calgary team at home Tuesday night.

"They got off to an ordinary start, but they've progressed in their recent stretch of games here, particularly on the road," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

"That's a team that has been struggling, but you know they're going to come out with their best effort," Jonathan Toews said. "You always have to get up for these games."

The Hawks are getting ready to play a lot of hockey as in 15 games in the next 26 days. They won't have a three-day break again until Jan. 11.

It'll be interesting to see where the Hawks sit after this grueling stretch.

"We'd certainly like to have some room, but Nashville keeps winning and everybody in our division is above .500, as is the whole conference, basically," Quenneville said.

"We'd still love to win our division, that's our motivation and that's our goal, to be in first, but we feel we're probably going to get challenged right to the end. We want to try and stay ahead of that pack, but I don't think anybody is going away."

• Patrick Kane took part in Tuesday's full practice and will play against the Blues after suffering a seven-stitch cut near his left eye in Sunday's game with Tampa Bay on the butt end of his own stick.

Kane said he might wear a tinted visor to cut down on the glare that has been bothering him for two days.

"Fortunately it wasn't serious," Kane said.