As the Ducks begin their two-game Central Division swing tonight in Chicago, they'll do so without the services of rugged forward Nick Ritchie. According to head coach Randy Carlyle, the 21-year-old suffered whiplash from a collision with Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg in Anaheim's 4-3 shootout victory on Tuesday and did not travel with the team.
It's a significant loss for the Ducks, considering the 6-2, 232-pound winger ranks sixth in the NHL in hits (209) and had six points (1g/5a) in his last seven games. Ritchie scored his 12th goal of the season two nights ago against the Predators, and added two shots, one hit and one blocked shot in 12:30 TOI. Ondrej Kase is expected to replace Ritchie in the lineup.
"He wasn't feeling right, so with today's protocol, you're very [cautious] of the symptoms he was having," said Carlyle. "We decided we'd leave him at home. There's no use bringing a player that doesn't have a chance to play."
John Gibson traveled with the club to Chicago and was on the ice today for the morning skate. He won't play tonight - it'll be the sixth consecutive game he'll miss - but it's an encouraging sign as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury. "He's got a couple days to take shots to speed up his recovery and give him the shots and ice time required before he gets back into the net," said Carlyle.
Starting goaltenders for tonight's game are expected to be Jonathan Bernier for Anaheim and Corey Crawford for Chicago.
Bernier is coming off a 24-save performance in the victory over the Predators, and was at his best in overtime and the five-round shootout. Bernier stopped all five attempts in the shootout en route to his 11th victory of the season (11-7-2).
After a ragged start to that game, the Ducks put on a display of dominance perhaps not seen all season - at least for that amount of time. Carlyle says that style of play - an aggressive forecheck coupled with physical play and an active defense - is going to be required as the club pushes toward a playoff berth.
"Our work ethic was better than it's been over the past couple of games," said Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg. "We worked hard getting to those areas. That shows how we've been scoring our goals this year. It's pucks towards the net and banging rebounds in. We found those second opportunities."
The Ducks will need to elevate their game even higher against a Blackhawks team that is getting a familiar face back on the blueline.
Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya will make his Blackhawks debut tonight after missing the last three games rehabbing an ankle injury that has limited his availability over the last two months. Oduya was acquired (or reacquired) in a trade with the Dallas Stars on February 28. The 35-year-old defenseman played in 219 games with the Blackhawks from 2012-15 before he signed with the Stars as a free agent. Oduya is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, having won them both with the Hawks in 2013 and 2015.
Blackhawks backup goaltender Scott Darling took the ice prior to the team's skate earlier this morning, but is still approximately two weeks away from returning to the lineup. Darling suffered an upper-body injury during the club's morning skate prior to their game against the New York Islanders on March 3. Jeff Glass, who has yet to appear in an NHL game, is Crawford's backup tonight and presumably the rest of the way until Darling is ready.
Potential Line Combinations