The last time the Calgary Flames were at the United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks made NHL history. When the Flames visit this time, the Blackhawks could add another line in their own record books.
With a victory Sunday against the playoff-hopeful Flames, the Blackhawks will win their first division crown in 17 years.
Matching the largest comeback in league history, Chicago (48-22-7) rallied from a five-goal, first-period deficit against the visiting Flames on Oct. 12 and won 6-5 on Brent Seabrook's goal 26 seconds into overtime.
Chicago has taken seven straight from the Flames by a 35-14 margin. The last two victories have come in Calgary by a combined 10-2 score.
On Saturday, Chicago was on the verge of clinching its first title since taking the Norris Division in 1992-93, but Pavel Datsyuk's game-tying goal with 36.4 seconds left in regulation of Detroit's 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville gave the eight-time defending Central Division champs a point and kept the Red Wings' faint hopes of catching the Blackhawks alive.
Detroit, which plays at Philadelphia earlier on Sunday, would need to win out while Chicago loses the remainder of its games. The Red Wings and Blackhawks meet in the regular-season finale next Sunday in Chicago.
While that scenario is unlikely and with the division title all but secured, the Blackhawks can focus on closing the three-point gap with West-leading San Jose and playing at a high level heading into the postseason.
Friday's 2-1 shootout victory in New Jersey was a good start. After Kris Versteeg scored with 26 seconds left in regulation, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had the lone goal in the tiebreaker to give Chicago back-to-back victories following a three-game slide.
"We need that to win this time of year," Toews said after notching his league high-tying eighth shootout goal. "We hung in there the whole night. We got better and better as the game went along."
With earlier questions about who would start in goal for Chicago come playoff time, rookie Antti Niemi has seemingly won that job from Cristobal Huet. Niemi made 32 saves and stopped all three in the tiebreaker Friday, improving to 2-0-0 with a 0.48 goals-against average in the last two games.
"He's been huge for us," Seabrook said of Niemi, who is 2-0-0 with a 1.59 GAA versus Calgary. "He's won some big games."
Miikka Kiprusoff has done the same for the Flames (40-29-9). With Calgary targeting its sixth straight playoff berth, Kiprusoff has a 1.67 GAA during the team's three-game winning streak. He made 35 saves, including several from point-blank range, in Friday's 2-1 win at Colorado as the Flames tied the slumping Avalanche for eighth in the West.
"I see these highlight-reel saves all the time," said former Blackhawk Rene Bourque, who has three goals and two assists during Calgary's winning streak. "But I'm still amazed at how he stops them and keeps them out of the net. It's unbelievable. I think he's the best goalie in the league."
Kiprusoff, though, hasn't been at his best against the Blackhawks, going 0-5-2 with a 4.91 GAA during the Flames' slide against Chicago.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who has not found the back of the net in the last seven games, has one goal and five assists during a five-game point streak versus the Blackhawks. The Flames' leading scorer needs one point to reach 70 for the fourth straight season.