Blackhawks to face former acquaintances

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, Last Updated: 2:50 PM ET

The Chicago Blackhawks chose to get rid of several players from last year's championship team this offseason and it turns out that their loss was the Atlanta Thrashers' gain.

The Blackhawks will get a chance to face several of their former teammates tonight, when they visit the Thrashers at Philips Arena in the only game between the clubs this season.

Chicago won its first Stanley Cup since 1961 last spring, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games, but general manager Stan Bowman opted to shed many players due to salary cap concerns. Among those players were Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, who are all currently on Atlanta's roster.

The former Blackhawks have made a serious impact so far in Atlanta. In fact, Byfuglien and Ladd are currently tied for the team lead with 12 points apiece. Byfuglien has been especially impressive, as he's successfully made the switch back to defense after primarily skating as a winger during his time in Chicago.

Ladd, meanwhile, is on pace for a career season, posting four goals and eight assists through his first 13 games in Atlanta. He set a career mark in goals with 17 for Chicago last year and his best point total came two years ago when he recorded 49 points for the "Hawks.

"I'm not surprised at all [by Ladd's start]. He's a good player," Sopel told Atlanta's website about his former Blackhawk and current Thrashers teammate. "Laddie' works hard every single night, good nights and bad nights. No matter what, he's working hard. He's trying to do his best."

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, enter tonight having dropped two straight and five of their last seven contests. Chicago is 7-7-1 overall this season and although it is still loaded with star players like Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, the club does seem to have been adversely affected by its offseason losses.

Speaking of Hossa, the winger has missed Chicago's last four games with an upper-body injury and he has been ruled out for tonight's test as well. The Slovakian sniper, who also played three seasons in Atlanta, was off to a great start to the season, recording seven goals and 11 points in 11 games. Hossa has returned to practice and may be able to play sometime next week.

The Blackhawks were last in action on Wednesday, when they dropped a 5-3 decision to visiting New Jersey. Jamie Langenbrunner registered a goal and two assists to lead the struggling Devils to the win at United Center.

Viktor Stalberg finished with a goal and two helpers for Chicago, while Marty Turco stopped 19 shots in defeat.

"I think we tried to force things too much out there," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "They had the neutral zone bottled up pretty well and we had to battle the whole game."

The Thrashers will try to get their offense on track after getting shut out by visiting Columbus on Thursday. Mathieu Garon stopped all 25 shots he faced to help anchor the Blue Jackets' 3-0 win at Philips Arena.

Ondrej Pavelec made 39 saves for the Thrashers, who failed to record at least one point for the first time in six games (3-1-2).

"We are not winning enough battles -- it is up to each player to start the process (of winning puck battles)," said Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay. "We need everybody involved to score goals. We've had some slumps when we're just not getting enough shots on net."

Thrashers forward Bryan Little missed his third straight game on Thursday with a concussion and facial lacerations. He is questionable for tonight's contest.

Chicago recorded a shootout win on home ice against the Thrashers last year and the Blackhawks have won three of four and six of eight overall in this series. Atlanta has also dropped two in a row and three of its last four home tests against Chicago.

The Blackhawks are 3-2-1 on the road this year and Atlanta is just 2-3-0 as the hosts. Atlanta will play nine of its next 11 games on home ice.


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