Chicago (19-7-3) at Buffalo (17-9-2)

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  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Fri Dec 11, 2009
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The addition of Marian Hossa(notes) has helped the Chicago Blackhawks continue their strong play, but they’ve had some difficulty finding the back of the net recently.

Chicago could catch a break Friday night when it travels to face the Buffalo Sabres, potentially facing former teammate Patrick Lalime(notes) instead of one of the league’s top goaltenders, Ryan Miller(notes).

After rehabbing for nearly two months from offseason shoulder surgery, Hossa - signed by the Blackhawks for $62.8 million over 12 years - made a splash with two goals in his debut with the team, a 7-2 victory at San Jose on Nov. 25.

Chicago (19-7-3) has tallied nine total goals - four by Jonathan Toews(notes) - in six games since then, but the Central Division leaders are 3-2-1 in that span, including consecutive 2-1 overtime victories over Pittsburgh last Saturday and the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

“We’ll take the wins and worry about how we win later,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Despite a 41-18 advantage in shots on goal, the Blackhawks were held scoreless by the visiting Rangers until Toews scored the tying goal with 5:55 remaining in regulation.

In overtime, 6-foot-4, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien(notes) swept around the New York defense for the winning score.

“It was the highlight of the year,” Quenneville said. “Great speed, great presence of mind. He cut in. Nice finish as well.”

Toews had a goal and an assist in last season’s 4-1 home victory over the Sabres. Lalime, who played two seasons in Chicago before signing with Buffalo for 2008-09, took the loss in that matchup. Current Blackhawks starter Cristobal Huet(notes) stopped 22 shots to beat him.

Published reports in Buffalo indicate Lalime could get another start against his former team Friday. Buffalo (17-9-2) might opt to rest Miller - among the league leaders with a 1.82 goals-against average - for a more important Eastern Conference matchup Saturday night, against the Rangers in the opener of a three-game road trip.

Miller helped the Sabres avoid a three-game slide Wednesday night with a 35-save effort and his fourth shutout of the season, 3-0 over visiting Washington, the league’s highest-scoring team.

“We all knew what was at stake,” Miller said after his eighth straight start. “You can’t lose three in a row and call yourself a top team. You have to keep pace with the big teams, and we got back on our feet.”

Lalime, meanwhile, has a 4.55 GAA in three appearances this season and hasn’t played since giving up five goals at Ottawa on Nov. 21. He’s also endured hip and groin injuries over the past two years.

Lalime is 2-5-2 with a 3.17 GAA against the Blackhawks.

Huet, who used to play for the Sabres’ Northeast Division rival Montreal, is 6-2-1 with a 1.86 GAA in his last nine games against Buffalo. Backup Antti Niemi(notes) has never faced the Sabres.

This is the first visit to Buffalo for the Blackhawks since a 3-1 loss Dec. 15, 2007. They haven’t won there since a 6-5 victory Dec. 19, 2001.

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Friday, Dec 11