Ducks return home to host Hawks
Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 11:25 PMBLACKHAWKS (33-23-7) at DUCKS (26-25-10)
Chicago 4-6-0; Anaheim 7-1-2
This is the fourth and final meeting this season between the Western Conference rivals. Chicago has won the first three, including a 4-1 win on Dec. 16 in which Marian Hossa
and Patrick Sharp
both registered a goal and an assist.
That 4-1 loss in Chicago was part of a disastrous December that saw Anaheim go 3-8-2 and plummet out of the conference playoff picture. For the Hawks, that win came in the midst of a season-long five-game streak in which they looked poised to make a deep playoff run. But since the new year began, both teams' fortunes have turned drastically.
After starting 2012 with four straight losses, a 5-0-1 run gave Chicago the appearance of a team looking to return to the form that won them the Stanley Cup in 2010. But the Blackhawks followed up that streak with a shocking nine-game losing streak, the team's longest skid in five years.
The Hawks won four straight before losing to Dallas at home on Thursday, then were completely dominated at Los Angeles in a 4-0 loss of Saturday. L.A. captain Dustin Brown, rumored to be on the trading block, scored three goals before the game was 25 minutes old. Willie Mitchell scored the fourth Kings goal, which chased starting goaltender Corey Crawford in favor of Ray Emery, who stopped all 20 shots he faced.
The loss was the second straight for the Hawks and the second time in two weeks they had been shut out.
Ducks: When Anaheim closed out 2011 with six losses in seven games and began the new year with a 3-1 loss to San Jose, there was no indication this was the same team that thrilled the hockey world with an impressive second-half surge last season. Apparently no one told the Ducks that. Since that Sharks loss to open the new year, the Ducks have gone a remarkable 16-3-4, launching them right back into the Western Conference playoff race.
After falling 3-2 to Tampa Bay on Tuesday in their first regulation loss in three weeks, the Ducks skated into Raleigh on Thursday to take on the Hurricanes. Corey Perry forced overtime with his 30th goal of the season in the third period. Despite outshooting the Hurricanes 5-1 in extra time, the Ducks had to go to the shootout, where Saku Koivu scored the only goal, giving the Ducks a 3-2 victory. The win was the first road extra-time victory this season for Anaheim, who came into the game 1-22-2 when trailing after two periods, and sent them home with a 5-1-2 record on their make-or-break eight-game road trip.
Who's Hot: For Chicago, Hossa has six points in his last seven games. … Perry has been on fire for the Ducks, scoring eight goals in his last nine games.
Injury Report: Daniel Carcillo (knee surgery) and Steve Montador (upper body) are on IR for Chicago while captain Jonathan Toews is out with an upper-body injury but may be back in a few days. … For the Ducks, Matt Smaby (thumb) and Dan Ellis (groin) are on IR.
Stat Pack: Perry's current scoring pace is comparable to the incredible run he had last season, when he scored an astonishing 25 goals after Feb. 1 on his way to winning the Hart Trophy.
Puck Drop: While Chicago boasts an offense that ranks in the League's top five, they are at their best when their defense is at its stingiest. The Blackhawks are an impressive 25-3-1 this season when limiting their opposition to two or fewer goals. Since Jan 1, however, Chicago is 1-13-3 when allowing three or more goals. That could bode well against an Anaheim team that has failed to score more than two goals in seven of their last eight games.