Blackhawks looking to defeat Ducks for first time

Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 10:00 PM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- After hobnobbing and taking pictures with LeBron James from courtside seats at United Center on Wednesday, Patrick Kane watched as the Chicago Bulls took down the Miami Heat and their 27-game winning streak.

Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks right wing turned NBA fan for a night, found a lesson in the Bulls' 101-97 victory. It's one he hopes his team learns from and uses to its advantage Friday when the Anaheim Ducks come into United Center looking to defeat the Blackhawks for a third straight time this season.

"We need to try to be exactly like the Bulls [Wednesday] night," Kane said after practice Thursday. "Get out to an early lead and use the crowd to our advantage, get the place rocking."

The Bulls led 32-22 after the first quarter and 55-46 at halftime. They fell behind in the third, but picked it up in the fourth to build a nine-point cushion.

Kane said the United Center crowd was electric and the atmosphere was intense.

"I've never seen or heard a basketball game that loud," he said.

It will be at least that loud, if not louder, if the Blackhawks follow the Bulls' lead and finally exorcise the only demon that has plagued them this season.

They have beaten the 13 other teams on their schedule, but they're 0-1-1 against the Ducks because, to steal from another sport, they haven't had a closer's mentality.

Anaheim defeated Chicago 3-2 in a shootout on Feb. 12 after Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano tied the game with 2:40 left in the third period. The Ducks topped the Blackhawks 4-2 on March 20 by scoring three goals in the final 5:27.

The Los Angeles Kings are the only other team this season that erased a third-period lead en route to defeating the Blackhawks.

"We want to make sure we take care of our own business and remember what we didn't accomplish," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, referring to the previous two meetings against Anaheim. "That should be something we want to go prove."

It may seem odd considering the Blackhawks have led the Western Conference from Day One this season, but they're looking at the game Friday as a measuring stick.

They don't care that the Ducks have lost four in a row and are now five points behind them in the standings, because at least tying Anaheim in the regular-season series would give the Blackhawks an extra boost heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As it stands now they're on track to see each other in the Western Conference Finals.

"You never know what is going to happen come playoffs," Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg said. "If we get matched up against them it's always nice to have a win [under your belt] and not feel you lost the season series to them. For sure we're going to try to get a win here and get some confidence with that."

The key will be keeping the Ducks' transition game at bay as much as possible. Quenneville said his team was burned in the third period just over a week ago because they did not do the right things to guard against Anaheim's quickness.

"We had a couple of mistakes that we didn't really show throughout the season," he said. "Whether it was a change or where we put the puck, left pucks late in that game, they capitalized on it. Their transition game is something we've got to be respectful for and try to kill their rush game.

"Where we leave pucks, getting pucks in behind them and changes are important against them because their transition is something we have to be aware of. We didn't do a good job of it last time in their building."

Kane called it a focus problem, which is a rarity for the Blackhawks this season.

"We have been good all year in one-goal games. We've really had some success there," he said. "It was one game where I think we maybe lost focus or something set in that wasn't right and they took advantage of it. We'll try to make sure that doesn't happen again."

It won't if they follow the Bulls' blueprint for beating LeBron and the Heat.

Take a lead, use the crowd, ride the wave to a win. The Blackhawks have done it enough this season to know what it takes and how it feels.

"They're one of the teams we have to beat to go where we want to go," goalie Corey Crawford said of the Ducks. "We have to find a way to shut them down if we have the lead again."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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