BLACKHAWKS (20-16-3) at DUCKS (20-17-4)
TV -- WGN (HD),KDOC (HD)
Last 10 -- Chicago 5-4-1; Anaheim 6-4-0
Season series -- The Blackhawks have won both of their meetings this season with the Ducks, the most recent a 4-1 victory at the tail end of Chicago's annual "Circus Trip" on Nov. 26.
Big story -- Both Anaheim and Chicago suffered major blows last week when their captains -- Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Jonathan Toews of the Hawks -- went down with a significant injury. While the Ducks have responded to the challenge, the Blackhawks need to prove they can succeed without their captain.
Blackhawks -- The injury bug has bitten the defending champs hard so far this season. While two pillars of Chicago's offense, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, have both missed significant time with various ailments, the Hawks seemed ready to take off last week with four straight wins and, at long last, their full assortment of offensive weapons. But after banging up his shoulder on Dec. 28 against St. Louis, Toews is expected to miss roughly two weeks, giving Chicago yet another obstacle as it fights to stay in the West playoff hunt.
The immediate impact has not been positive for the Hawks, who come to Orange County one point behind Anaheim for the final playoff spot in the West. After falling to the Blues the night Toews suffered his injury, Chicago lost 5-3 at home to San Jose on Thursday despite a remarkable stretch in which the Hawks tied the game with two goals in the final 30 seconds of the second period. However as the Blackhawks play their first game of 2011, there is some good news in that Corey Crawford is expected to be back in net after battling flu-like symptoms for the past week. Crawford won his last three starts while compiling a 1.33 goals-against average before catching the flu bug.
Ducks -- With Getzlaf sidelined indefinitely due to multiple nasal and sinus fractures after taking a puck in the face on Tuesday at Phoenix, the Ducks have responded positively. They beat the Coyotes 301 to conclude a seven-game trip, then got two goals each from Jason Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky in an impressive 5-2 win over Philadelphia at home on New Year's Eve.
The Ducks are currently fourth in the Pacific Division, but with the West as tight as it is, Anaheim sits in the final spot of the top eight and is just four points from leading its division. With two straight wins, and victories in three of their last four, the Ducks have a chance to get hot -- their next five games are at home.
Who's hot -- Corey Perry has been powering Anaheim's offense in recent weeks, tallying 13 points in his last 11 games. ... Chicago's Bryan Bickell continues to be a surprising force, reaching the scoresheet 11 time in the last 11 games.
Injury report -- The Ducks are also without forward Aaron Voros, who was place on injured reserve last month with a broken orbital bone. … Chicago's Fernando Pisani is also considered questionable with flu-like symptoms.
Stat pack -- As one of the youngest captains in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup, Toews' leadership abilities have not been questioned, but Captain Serious' impact on the ice could be just as profound as off it. Toews had 33 points in 38 games this season. Were it not for his recent shoulder injury, Toews, at his current pace, would have set a career high in points with 71.
Puck drop -- How each of these teams manages without its captain will be a strong indicator of how far each can go in the 2010-11 season. While the Ducks' early responsive has been impressive, the Blackhawks will need to prove quickly that the loss of Toews won't keep them from getting the chance to defend their Cup.