There will be little room for error tonight as the Ducks take on the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
The Ducks have let recent games slip away, most recently on Tuesday when they failed to convert on nine attempts in a shootout against the rival Kings. All hands will be on deck tonight against a team that’s riding a two-game losing streak (in regulation) for the first time this season.
“They’re very good,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “There are no if ands or buts about it. They’re going to lose some games, but if you ever come in and play Chicago, you know you’re in for a fight.” Anaheim has won the last four meetings against the Hawks, dating back to Feb. 26, 2012 at Honda Center (3-1 win).
“They’re going to be in your face,” said Corey Perry. “If you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get buried. It’s going to take everybody in this dressing room to play and be at their top.”
Anaheim will have to play its next two games without the services of center Mathieu Perreault, who didn’t accompany the team on this two-game road trip. Perreault has been dealing with a nagging lower-body injury for an unspecified amount of time. In his place, the Ducks recalled forwards Emerson Etem and David Steckel.
Steckel originally joined the Ducks via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 15, 2013, and appeared in 21 contests for the Ducks last season, earning six points (1g/5a). He won 95-of-165 faceoffs in his final 14 contests of 2012-13 for a 57.6% success rate. After being released from a pro tryout agreement with the Minnesota Wild earlier this season, the Ducks signed him to a one-year contract on Nov. 11. He will wear his familiar No. 20.
“I’ve known Dave long enough that I’ve got to believe I know what I’m getting when goes out there,” said Boudreau. “He’s a good defensive player who’s strong on faceoffs. He’s a big-bodied guy who will get in the lanes. He’s a good penalty killer. All of these things are good. He’s spent the last six years in the NHL and would love to stay.”
After being reassigned to Norfolk (AHL) on Nov. 27, Etem appeared in three contests with the Admirals, scoring five points (1g/4a). In his first game, Etem collected three points (1g/2a) in Norfolk’s 5-2 win over Charlotte. Boudreau said he wants a more consistent effort from the Long Beach native this time around.
“He just came back from a little vacation in Norfolk,” Boudreau said. “I’m sure as much as Norfolk is a great city and the team treats him well and he gets a lot of ice time, I don’t think he wants to go back.
Adds Boudreau, “You just can’t come into the NHL and throw your jersey on and say, ‘I’m here. I had a great playoff. I’m in.’ You’ve got to come to this game and play every shift like it’s your last. When you do that, eventually you learn. Right now, it was too inconsistent. One game was good, one game was bad. We need to get the young guys to be less inconsistent. Getting in on the forecheck, getting in on the backcheck, being physical, being a perimeter player. All of these things happen to a lot of guys, just not Emerson. When they start getting going in straight lines and going to the net and getting dirty, they’ll start scoring goals. There’s no real secret to any of that.”
BEAUCHEMIN, SILFVERBERG ON TRIP
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Jakob Silfverberg are with the team on this two-game road trip, and skating. But neither of them will play this weekend, according to head coach Bruce Boudreau, who said they’re with the team to “get in shape.”
“We brought [Beauchemin] here because we thought it would better to get him in shape with us than it would be just skating at home,” he said. “Beauch is not playing today or tomorrow, nor is Silfverberg.”
Beauchemin has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury while Silfverberg hasn’t seen game action since Oct. 25 at Ottawa. Silfverberg has missed the last 19 games with a broken right hand.
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Dustin Penner-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Emerson Etem-Nick Bonino-Teemu Selanne
Daniel Winnik-Saku Koivu-Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey-David Steckel-Kyle Palmieri
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Mark Fistric-Hampus Lindholm
Bryan Allen-Sami Vatanen
Jonas Hiller is expected to start in net tonight. In 18 appearances, Hiller has fashioned a 9-4-4 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Hiller is 9-4-2 with a 2.30 GAA in 14 career appearances against the Blackhawks.
The Ducks and Blackhawks faceoff as two of the top five teams in the NHL tonight at United Center. Anaheim takes a four-game win streak into the season series, dating to Feb. 26, 2012 at Honda Center (3-1 win). The Ducks swept last season's series, accounting for three of the Blackhawks' 12 total losses (regulation or OT/SO) en route to their Stanley Cup championship. Two of Chicago's three losses when leading after two periods in 2012-13 were to the Ducks (26-1-2 overall). All-time, the Ducks own a 42-26-9 record vs. the Blackhawks. Since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, the Ducks have posted a 20-7-4 record against Chicago (.710 points percentage).