DUCKS (8-2-1) at BLACKHAWKS (10-0-2)
TV: PRIME, CSN-CH
Last 10: Anaheim 7-2-1; Chicago 8-0-2
Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the Ducks and Blackhawks. Chicago won three of four games between the two teams in 2011-12.
Big story: While these teams may have had different expectations at the start of this season, with a quarter of the 2012-13 campaign behind them, the Blackhawks and Ducks are probably both thinking about playing in June. Simply put, when Chicago and Anaheim meet Tuesday night, it will be a powerhouse matchup of two of the top teams in the West, and arguably the biggest game so far this season.
Ducks: No team in the NHL can claim to be quite as hot as Chicago right now, but the Ducks are awfully close. Anaheim has won five of its last six games and is coming off a shootout victory in St. Louis on Saturday night in which it managed to put five goals past a team known for its staunch defense. That win came in large part due to a four-point night from the ageless Teemu Selanne; it was the second such game for the 42-year-old this season.
As a result, the Ducks have put themselves in a dogfight with San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division one season after missing the playoffs for the second time in three years. One concern the team might have after its win at St. Louis, however, is the potential that the bloom might be off the rose of rookie goalie Viktor Fasth, who gave up five goals. Fasth was bailed out by an offense that has established itself as one of the best in the NHL. Not only are the Ducks averaging an impressive 3.36 goals per game, they've also scored six or more goals three times in their first 11 games.
Blackhawks: Long road trips can be exhausting and have an enormous impact on your season. They are not, however, supposed to be easy, and by the time Chicago wrapped up its recent six-game trek in Nashville on Sunday night, it had started to look almost too easy. After a slow start in which the Blackhawks suffered back-to-back shootout losses, their only two losses this season, Chicago made a late rally to defeat Calgary on Feb. 2 and then reeled off consecutive wins at San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville by a combined margin of 14-5.
As the Blackhawks return to the United Center for the first time in more than two weeks, they sit atop the NHL standings with a stunning 10-0-2 mark and, perhaps most astonishing, 10 of the 24 road games they'll play this season already in their rearview mirror. By comparison Chicago still has 22 of its 24 home games remaining. The Blackhawks are also just four games away from the longest streak without a regulation loss to open a season, a mark set by none other than Anaheim when it opened its 2006-07 Stanley Cup-championship season at 12-0-4.
Who's hot: Who's hotter in this League than Chicago's Patrick Kane? No one, as far as the NHL is concerned. Kane was named the League's first star for the past week Monday after tallying five goals and one assist in his last three games. On the season Kane has 19 points in just 12 games. … Saku Koivu has three goals and three assists in his last five games for the Ducks.
Injury report: Anaheim is still without defenseman Cam Fowler, who is on IR with an upper-body injury. Jonas Hiller, who left the Ducks' loss to Dallas on Friday night with a lower-body injury, is expected to skate Tuesday, though Fasth, given his performance so far this season, will likely be starting.