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Preview: Buffalo at Chicago

When: 8:30 PM ET, Friday, January 8, 2016
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

After completing a home-and-home sweep to extend their winning streak to a season-high five games, the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks look to maintain their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres when the clubs meet at the United Center on Friday. Rookie Artemi Panarin has taken his electric play up a notch by recording back-to-back two-goal performances, doing so in a 3-2 overtime victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday and again in a 3-0 triumph versus the Penguins the following night.

While Patrick Kane told the team’s website that the “sky’s the limit” for Panarin, the former hasn’t been too shabby in his own right. Kane has two goals and eight assists on his five-game point streak and tallied late in regulation and again in the shootout of a 3-2 win over his hometown Sabres on Dec. 19. The victory was Chicago’s eighth in a row in the series against Buffalo, which has been outscored 18-7 during its current five-game losing streak. All-Star Ryan O’Reilly scored the first of his five goals during a seven-game stretch in the first meeting with the Blackhawks and also tallied in a 5-1 setback to streaking Florida on Tuesday.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network, MSG-B (Buffalo), Bell TV, CSN Chicago

ABOUT THE SABRES (15-21-4): Although Dan Bylsma insisted he wasn’t sending a message, the coach altered his defensive pairings during Thursday’s practice – with top-tier blue-liner Rasmus Ristolainen sitting out a few drills in the process. “It wasn’t (Ristolainen’s) strongest game last game, his play with the puck, but we’re talking about a guy who’s been a big part of our team and how we have played,” Bylsma told the team’s website of the former first-round pick of the 2013 draft. Speaking of first-round picks, rookie Jack Eichel set up Buffalo’s lone tally versus the Panthers for his 12th point (four goals, eight assists) in his last eight games.

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (25-13-4): Although voted in as an All-Star Game captain last week, Kane took issue with the snub of Corey Crawford after the NHL released the rosters on Wednesday. “Very disappointing. If there’s one guy on this team who deserves it, it’s probably him,” Kane told reporters of Crawford, who was third in the league in wins (21), first in shutouts (career-high six) and 10th in save percentage (.925) entering play on Thursday. The 31-year-old’s statistics trump those of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (16-12-6, two shutouts, .907 save percentage) and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk (17-11-3, four blankings, .921) – and his 6-0-0 career mark with a 1.82 goals-against average versus Buffalo is impressive as well.

OVERTIME

1. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews saw his five-game point streak end on Wednesday, but he has mustered 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 11 career meetings with Buffalo.

2. The Sabres are trying to prevent their second six-game skid of the season (Nov. 14-25).

3. The Blackhawks have failed on all six power-play opportunities over the last three contests after going 5-for-10 in the previous two.

PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Sabres 1