The NHL-leading Ducks will be the center of attention tonight as they open a two-game road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the regular season.
Tonight’s game features the top two teams in the NHL, with Anaheim holding a six-point standings lead over Chicago (30-8-11, 71 points). The Ducks (36-8-5, 77 points) enter tonight’s game as winners of eight in a row and 18 of 19 overall, including a 9-1 drubbing over the Canucks two nights ago. The Blackhawks are 4-1-5 in their past 10 games, including a 3-2 overtime loss at home to Colorado on Tuesday.
It’s been a storybook season thus far for the Ducks, who joined the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens as the only teams in NHL history to win 18-of-19 games (both 18-1-0). Coupled with a 10-game streak from Dec. 6-28, Anaheim now owns the two longest win streaks in the NHL this season. The Ducks own three win streaks of seven-or-more games, marking the first team to do so since Detroit in 2007-08.
"It's pretty neat that it's happened, but you play so many games in a row in this league, you don't have time to sit back and enjoy it," said head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We're glad where it's gotten us. It's pulled us away, a little bit, from the eighth-place team in our conference. It's given us a little bit of breathing room. That's the main thing."
Boudreau says his team has to play its best hockey against the Blackhawks and Blues in order to be successful. “If you don’t play your best hockey coming into Chicago and then going into St. Louis, you’re in trouble. We played really good the first time here, and we played exceptionally good in St. Louis that night. It just got us playing on a level where we knew we had to stay. We ended up doing it for a little while.”
Jonas Hiller, who sat out Wednesday’s game due to illness, is expected to get the start in net tonight. He’ll enter the game riding a club-record 14-game winning streak, matching the second-longest streak all-time in an NHL single season.
Also expected to play is defenseman Bryan Allen, who’s missed the past five games with a lower-body injury. Mark Fistric will likely be the scratch on defense, along with forward Patrick Maroon, who’ll be replaced by Kyle Palmieri.
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Dustin Penner - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne
Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano
Kyle Palmieri - Mathieu Perreault – Jakob Silfverberg
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Bryan Allen - Sami Vatanen
HANDLING THE HAWKS
The Ducks have won five straight over the Blackhawks, including three consecutive in Chicago. Their most recent victory came Dec. 6, a 3-2 shootout win, at United Center. The Ducks went on to beat the Blues in St. Louis the next night, 5-2. The Ducks hope it will be a familiar feeling this weekend, as they face the Blues at Scottrade Center tomorrow.
Anaheim and Chicago play the second of a three-game season series tonight at the United Center. Anaheim is 43-26-9 all-time vs. Chicago, including 20-16-5 in Illinois. The season series will conclude Feb. 5 at Honda Center.