Darling of a matchup as Hurricanes visit Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Goaltender Scott Darling will face his former team when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at the United Center

Without the 12-year veteran, the Flames are leaning on a rookie tandem of Jon Gillies and David Rittich, who have combined to appear in 25 career NHL games.

Gillies is 2-2-1 in six games, including a 35-save outing in a 5-2 win at Arizona on Feb. 22. Rittich is 1-4-1, and allowed seven goals on 26 shots in a 7-3 loss at Vegas on Feb. 21.

Coach Glen Gulutzan defended his goalies by saying the team has to play better as a whole. And yet, he acknowledged how much of a difference Smith can make both in stopping shots and being one of the league’s best puck-handling goalies.

“There’s no scapegoat on goaltending here,” Gulutzan said. “We’re still fighting. And if we get him back, I think it’s great. It helps you win when you get an elite guy back.”

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester needs hip surgery and will miss up to six months, and forward Scottie Upshall will be re-evaluated in four to six weeks after spraining his left MCL. The 15-year veterans were injured in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

It looked like Adam Silver had done it again. He made a seemingly simple fix to a problem that would improve the product tenfold. It would be basketball in its purest, most playground-like form. The possibilities and storylines were endless.

“And so we when we’d recently seen some of the instances that had been happening on the court by our major actors on the court, we said, ‘This is not living up to our collective standards … in regards to sportsmanship.’ We thought it was just important to take a renewed emphasis on respect and relationships — respect for the game and respect for each other.”packers_142

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