By Murray Pam
Fresh off a six-game road trip, the Blackhawks barely had time to reacquaint themselves with their families before flying northeast to Ottawa.
Winless in their past two games, coach Joel Quenneville's team arrives in Canada's Capital looking to get back on track.
Quenneville was expected to pull out the bingo balls and perform a little line-juggling Thursday night. However, morning line combos suggest it's status quo for the time being.
Marian Hossa finished Tuesday's game alongside Jonathan Toews, but will remain with Marko Dano and Marcus Kruger to at least open Thursday's game against the Senators.
Notching 10 points in 22 games, Hossa is struggling offensively. It's possible a return to familiar surroundings will reignite his scoring prowess.
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The 1997 first-rounder compiled 390 points in 467 games with the Senators and is considered one of their greatest players.
The trio of Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane has accounted for 47 percent of the club's 68 goals this season. Blackhawks fans have come accustomed to viewing balanced contributions throughout the lineup, but that hasn't been the case this season.
Kane will be the center of attention as he attempts to extend his point streak to 21 games and tie Bobby Hull's club record set in 1971-72. Kane, the league's top point-getter, has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in the last 20 games.
Corey Crawford will man the Blackhawks crease. Crawford is 2-0 in his career against the Senators. Residing two hours away in Montreal, Crawford will have plenty of friends and family in attendance.
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Former Blackhawk and Chicago-native Craig Anderson gets the nod in net for Ottawa. Anderson is 5-2-3 against the club that selected him in the 2001 NHL draft.
The Senators will ice a depleted lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Clarke MacArthur has missed most of this season with a concussion. Milan Michalek fractured a finger Tuesday. While Mika Zibanejad will sit out for precautionary reasons. Zibanejad took a forearm to the jaw from Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas. Gudas was suspended three games for his actions.
The Blackhawks have won four their past six past meetings at the Canadian Tire Centre — only one in regulation. Nine of the Senators 24 games this season have gone into overtime. Ottawa leads the NHL with six shootout appearances.
Be prepared for a long evening.