The Western Conference standings show the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames on pace for another first-round playoff meeting. That prospect seems like nothing but a mismatch right now.
While the surging Blackhawks try for a seventh straight regular-season win in Calgary on Thursday night, the Flames will be looking to snap a five-game skid and bounce back from a particularly embarrassing defeat.
Chicago (34-12-4) and Calgary played in the quarterfinals last season, with the Blackhawks prevailing in six games on their way to a conference finals appearance.
That's been the closest the Flames (26-18-6) have been to competitive against Chicago recently. The Blackhawks have won six straight regular-season games both overall in the series -- averaging 5.3 goals -- and in Calgary, the latest a 7-1 rout Nov. 19 that featured four power-play goals and chased Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Kiprusoff had been excellent this season against everyone but Chicago until his latest game. He's allowed six goals in both losses to the Blackhawks but had a 1.94 goals-against average in his 40 other starts heading into Monday's game at San Jose.
Kiprusoff, though, was pulled after giving up six goals in two periods of a 9-1 loss, Calgary's fifth straight and most lopsided since falling 10-1 to Edmonton on Nov. 26, 1996.
"It's obviously very embarrassing and disappointing," coach Brent Sutter said. "There are certain things you expect from individuals and we didn't come close to it. It's very humbling to see what happened. When you get beat this bad you better realize it's a wakeup call."
The Flames, in seventh place in the West, haven't lost six in a row since a seven-game skid from Nov. 7-21, 2002. A loss Thursday would be their fifth straight at home for the first time since March 7-31, 2000.
Calgary has eight goals during the five-game slide, none from Jarome Iginla, who is scoreless in his last nine. Iginla's lone goal during this 0-4-2 stretch versus Chicago came Oct. 12 at the United Center, when the Flames blew a five-goal first-period lead and lost 6-5 in overtime.
"I've been in tough spots before and we've been in tough spots as a team before and we've gotten better and we've risen," Iginla told the Flames' official Web site. "I believe we'll do that again."
The Blackhawks -- two points behind conference-leading San Jose -- began a season-high eight-game road trip by scoring 10 goals in wins over Columbus and Detroit. They weren't nearly as good offensively Tuesday in Ottawa, as Marian Hossa's short-handed goal was all Chicago could muster in a 4-1 loss.
"It was just one of those nights where we weren't competing and we weren't skating," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I don't know why, but we know that Thursday's game is going to be tough so we better be ready for that one."
Cristobal Huet allowed four goals on 18 shots Tuesday, the third time in four games he's given up at least that many. Huet was in goal for the blowout win in Calgary in November and was pulled in the wild comeback victory in October.
Huet's recent struggles could mean it's a good time to give Antti Niemi a start. The rookie is 6-1-1 with a 1.28 GAA on the road.
Patrick Kane, who leads Chicago with 56 points, has four goals and five assists in his last five regular-season games against the Flames.